Faculty represented by Oregon Tech – American Association of University Professors (OT-AAUP) voted this week to authorize a strike amid negotiations to develop the union’s first contract with Oregon Institute of Technology.

This does not mean that a strike has been declared, or that one is going to occur. This vote only authorizes OT-AAUP leadership to call a strike at a later date if they so choose. Such a vote has become a common negotiation tactic utilized by numerous AAUP locals. OT-AAUP must provide the university at least 10 days’ advance notice before any strike occurring. Negotiations would continue even if the union chooses to strike, until the parties reach an agreement.

This approach by the faculty union, combined with Faculty Senate’s resolution to establish a vote of no confidence in Oregon Tech’s president, Dr. Nagi Naganathan, suggests that the two groups are working together. Regardless, the University plans to provide students with the opportunities to complete their degree programs as scheduled.

“After 16 months of negotiating, Oregon Tech is disappointed that OT-AAUP has decided to focus on using this approach instead of coming to the table with a true intent to work on an agreement and reach a resolution,” said President Naganathan. “Oregon Tech remains committed to working collaboratively with OT-AAUP to achieve a first labor contract that is both sustainable for the future and meets the interests of the students, faculty, Oregon Tech, and the larger Oregon Tech community.”

The negotiations have taken place in the midst of a global pandemic filled with uncertainties that continue to challenge the university’s fiscal health. Currently, OT-AAUP is proposing a 20% salary cost increase this year with additional incremental increases in the next two years, along with a reduction in workload of about 20%. Oregon Tech currently pays full-time nine-month professors on average $135,000 a year, when generous health insurance and retirement benefits are included. The resulting salary cost increases would amount to approximately $9 million over the next three years.

The negotiating team last met April 1, and is set to meet again April 5 and, while no further dates are scheduled, the Oregon Tech negotiations team has offered to meet every day during the week of April 12.

The University proposed retroactive pay increases as well as merit-based increases to faculty who strive to provide the greatest value to students and further our mission, rather than putting all of the compensation into across-the-board increases that ignore outstanding contributors. Merit-based compensation is a common practice in universities and allows for superior performance to be recognized.

Looking forward, it is Oregon Tech’s hope that by outlining these items in this contract, the university and OT-AAUP can work together more fluidly in the future with clear expectations set for one another.