A fact-finding panel appointed by the Maine Labor Relations Board has recommended a 4.5 percent salary increase over two years for the faculty in the University of Maine System.

The independent panel was appointed last summer after contract negotiations broke down, to analyze issues from language on academic freedom to salary increases.

The union, the Associated Faculties of the Universities of Maine, proposed a 4 percent increase in base salary for each year of a two-year contract.

The university system countered with a half-percent increase each year.

The fact-finding panel recommended a 1.5 percent increase in the first year and 3 percent in the second.

The panel issued its recommendation in late November. Under state law, it was confidential for 30 days.

The finding was released by the union Thursday.

The faculty has gone without a salary increase since March 2009, in part because the University of Maine System has been working to recover from fiscal problems brought on by the economic crisis of 2008-09.

In 2011, then-Chancellor Richard Pattenaude reported to the Legislature that the system would have a $43 million deficit if changes weren’t made.

“The findings of the panel do not give the faculty everything we asked for, but that’s why it is called negotiations — everyone must give a little for the greater good of the student,” said Ron Mosley, professor of business and law at the University of Maine at Machias, in a prepared statement.

The cost of the proposed 4.5 percent increase, equal to $4.5 million over two years, is slightly less than one-half of one percent of the university system’s annual budget of $520 million.

Tracy Bigney, the system’s head of human resources, said negotiations had resumed since the report was issued, but declined to characterize how the talks were going.

As for the panel’s salary recommendation, “we respectfully disagree that it’s an appropriate increase,” Bigney said Thursday.

Bigney noted that tuition is not going up, state funding for the system has been declining — the state appropriation is over $8 million less than the 2008 appropriation — and the system expects another cut in the upcoming state budget.

“If neither (tuition or appropriations) are going up, that leaves us in a position of not offering increases,” Bigney said.

She said the average salary for faculty members at the state universities is $69,700 a year.

In 2012, the annual base salaries for full-time faculty members totaled about $84.3 million, with an additional $17 million in benefits.

If the two sides cannot reach an agreement in the current round of negotiations, they will go to arbitration.

 

Staff Writer Noel K. Gallagher can be contacted at 791-6387 or at:
ngallagher@pressherald.com