The faculty and administration of Southern Oregon University traded contract offers through Monday, threatened to call for mediation and seemed fairly close to agreement.

Math Professor Kemble Yates said teachers at 5 p.m. Monday had responded to the latest offer of the administration and that the administration would respond Tuesday. The teachers' contract ended Aug. 31, so they are operating on an extension of the old contract until a settlement is reached.

The administration submitted a proposal at the end of last week, but it was rejected, with a request for faculty to think about it till the end of Monday, said Brian Caufield, director of labor relations, University Shared Services Enterprise, the person bargaining for the administration.

“If they reconsider, we could potentially reach agreement,” said Caufield. “If they don’t, SOU will file for mediation with the state Employment Relations Board."

The law requires a minimum 150 days of bargaining, face-to-face, says Caufield, and it’s gone well beyond that. “After that,” he said, “either party can ask for mediation.”

On Friday, says Caufield, the faculty union “said if we accept most of their non-economic issues, they would accept our economic issues. We … accepted most of their non-economic issues, so we thought we would have a deal, but they came back and said they wanted more in economic issues in the first and third years.”

Caufiled said the administration’s economic offer was sustainable under current retrenchment, “but they rejected it. We gathered on Friday and decided to give the union more time to decide because we are very close. There is no need to involve state mediation if we can come to terms on our own." 

The sides did agree on a three-year contract. The union had wanted two years. The non-economic issues involved retirement, workload and other issues. 

“Those issues, in our mind, are resolved,” said Caufield. “On the economic issues, we are very close. We got a representation by the union that they will accept the economic if we accept the non-economic. Our economic meets most of their issues, so it’s disappointing if you get indications (they will accept) and they don’t.”

Yates on Friday said that administration is offering 7.25 percent pay increase, while the union seeks a point above that.

“We have a good economic offer on the table,” said Caufield. “Anything more than that and it’s something we’d have to take a close look at, what with retrenchment and the budget. Now our offer is within our parameters and we hope they see and understand that and come together with us and get it done.”

Kemble, the faculty negotiator, texted that he’d have a more full statement Tuesday.

John Darling is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at jdarling@jeffnet.org.