Mediation begins between NMU faculty, administration
MARQUETTE — The mediation process between Northern Michigan University faculty and NMU’s administration and Board of Trustees began on Monday.
The NMU-American Association of University Professors union and administration are still negotiating over base salary increases and other forms of compensation.
The union and the university’s administration were unable to come to an agreement before the one-year contract expired at midnight July 1. Earlier this month, the union indicated that negotiations had been going on since March 1, but talks regarding financial items did not start until May.
According to Lesley Putman, chief negotiator for the union, Elizabeth Peters presided over the process. Peters practiced labor law for 35 years before becoming a mediator for the Michigan Employment Relations Commission.
While the mediation was taking place on Monday, NMU-AAUP President Dwight Brady spoke about the reasons behind negotiations reaching this point.
“One of the main reasons we decided to go to mediation was the fact that our contract was not extended, and so we kind of had to step back and kind of re-evaluate a few things,” he said. “We also wanted to make sure that we recovered some of the cuts that we gave up in that one-year contract because we did that during a COVID year — a very unique situation — and we did not intend for those cuts to be permanent.”
Brady said the union also wants to ensure it’s receiving the correct financial information from the NMU administration to properly bargain.
“I think mediation can help us in that regard, and so that’s why we’re moving forward with this,” he said.
Brady acknowledged that the mediation scenario is unique.
“Mediation is kind of the scary word for those of us who haven’t experienced this,” he said. “I’ve been here 25 years, and we’ve never gone through this.
“But really, it’s not that scary in the fact that you are just bringing in someone from the outside who’s an objective contributor to this discussion.”
The union’s hope, he noted, is that mediation will accelerate getting an agreement the union will sign so faculty can get back to work without worrying about a contract, which ultimately will benefit the students.
“We can just do what we do best, and that’s about, of course, teaching and learning,” Brady said.
NMU plans to return to predominantly in-person instruction and on-campus living with the start of fall classes on Aug. 23.
Brady said the hope is that the sides will come to an agreement as soon as possible.
“We want to make sure we have a fair contract that our membership will support,” said Brady, who noted faculty currently is being paid under the previous contract.
The NMU administration released a statement on Monday.
“After one session of mediation, the administration is optimistic of a timely resolution of a new contract for the faculty at Northern,” it said.