A year and a half after University of Northern Iowa leadership announced controversial cuts to address budget shortfalls, the university’s professors’ union is celebrating a victory of sorts.
United Faculty announced Tuesday that a Polk County District Court judge has ruled that the Iowa Board of Regents must negotiate faculty job buyouts with the union. Such negotiations didn’t happen when some UNI professors lost their jobs in 2012, according to the union.
At the time, according to a news release, some of the professors who lost their jobs were forced to choose between an early incentive separation program and being laid off without a separation package. The options were laid out in a meeting that bypassed the union, officials said, prompting the union to file a complaint with the Iowa Public Employee Relations Board.
The board sided with the union in May 2012, and the regents appealed to the district court. Judge Scott Rosenberg issued a ruling last week upholding the Iowa Public Employee Relations Board decision that the regents must negotiate job buyouts with the union.
But union president Joe Gorton said his group never wanted it to go that far.
“We would have preferred to work directly with the regents to resolve this matter,” Gorton said in a news release. “The way this was handled caused several dedicated professors to feel compelled to give up their jobs and leave UNI.
“We never want this situation to repeat itself,” he said.
Union officials say the ruling could have broader implications for other Iowa employees facing job termination. Should this court ruling stand, according to union attorney Nate Willems, future public employers in Iowa will have to bargain with unions about programs encouraging employees to quit.
“An employer will not be able to bypass the union and cherry-pick individuals it would like to see leave,” according to union attorney Nate Willems.
Controversial decisions made in 2012 to address UNI’s budget woes included terminating professors’ employment, cancelling several academic programs and closing the Malcolm Price Laboratory School.
The decisions prompted UNI professors to issue a vote of no-confidence in the school’s leadership, and it precipitated the departure of President Ben Allen.