Faculty union and UNF BOT tentatively agree on new contract, pending vote

Carter Mudgett and Darvin Nelson

The University of North Florida faculty union — United Faculty of Florida (UFF) — and Board of Trustees (BOT) tentatively agreed upon a contract last that, if ratified and approved, will give faculty a 5% pay raise and $1,000 bonus. 

Every three years, UFF and the BOT begin the process of full book contract negotiations. The contract dictates faculty terms and conditions of employment, covering things like salary, benefits, promotion and tenure.

“[UFF] represents all, what’s called ‘in-unit’ faculty members at UNF,” UNF professor and Faculty Union President Elizabeth Brown explained. “So these are people who are full-time. They are not in an administrative position.”

While there are other benefits to this new contract, Brown said that faculty are most interested in salary. 

UNF faculty are paid the lowest of all Florida State University System (SUS) institutions, according to a 2020 to 2021 faculty salary analysis by the National Education Association (NEA).

Salaries laid out by NEA
The 2020-21 institutional faculty salary report provides salary and compensation information for the 1,566 public institutions in NEA’s faculty salary universe. The data are organized by state, institutional type, and control. The data are provided by the U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System’s Provisional Salary Data for 2020-21. The detailed data reported are for faculty on 9/10 month contracts only. Changes in average faculty salaries are reported only for institutions responding to the NCES Salary Surveys in both 2019-20 and 2020-21. All dollar amounts are reported in thousands. (Table courtesy of NEA Higher Education)

All the institutions listed are PhD-granting institutions and, as shown above, UNF ranks the lowest of the bunch for pay. 

“We always ask for what faculty deserve,” Brown said. “UNF faculty are paid the least amount, so our salary is very behind. Our 5% increase is not going to keep up with the cost of inflation.”

Because UNF faculty are paid the least and may have additional financial burdens, especially with factors such as student debt, Brown said that the 5% is still something to be celebrated. 

“It’s very major, but it doesn’t fix the fact that UNF has historically and continues to pay its faculty the very least,” she remarked.

Faculty only get raises when they are promoted, with the exception of something called an “administrative discretionary increase” which only affects 1% of the faculty, according to Brown. 

Faculty’s options are to either get a promotion or achieve tenure. Achieving tenure means a 12.5% salary increase but there are no other opportunities for an increase, she explained.

“This is a major deal especially considering that inflation is close to 9% now, something like that,” Brown said. “So it means that we’re still losing money, but we’re keeping up a little bit better with inflation.”

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that inflation rose 8.2% in the past year (between Sep. 2021 and Sep. 2022). 

“Coming out of COVID we got a bonus. . . but our bonus was still less than other state universities. We were happy for that bonus, we’re happy for this bonus,” she said. “Faculty are really thrilled that the negotiations are finally coming to a close.”

In Sep. 2021, outgoing UNF President David Szymanski offered faculty and staff a one-time $1,500 bonus in return for union concessions. The bonus proposal, if accepted by faculty, would forgo any current and planned negotiations for salaries and other adjustments for the 2021-2022 year, according to previous Spinnaker reporting

Now, the contract negotiations allow for faculty to negotiate with the BOT to consider factors such as cost-of-living increases and inflation.

“If I got tenured and promoted to associate professor, I would literally be at that salary for 10-15 years potentially,” Brown explained. “That would not be good because we know the cost of living increases every year so if you have a segment salary and the cost of living has increased, you’re in trouble.”

This negotiated contract will last from 2022 to 2025 if approved, according to Brown. Because COVID-19 hit right as their bargaining agreement expired, the previous contract stayed in effect longer. 

Brown says the tentatively agreed-upon contract is pretty large — totaling somewhere between 250 and 300 pages — but the union hopes to get it ratified in early November. In order for it to be implemented, it must be approved by the BOT.


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