University of Detroit Mercy threatens to terminate faculty union’s contract

Despite ongoing negotiations between administrators and faculty, the University of Detroit Mercy has notified the faculty union that it could unilaterally terminate its contract on Sept. 24 — a heavy-handed move that could have serious consequences for students and educators at the Jesuit & Mercy university.

The University of Detroit Mercy Professors’ Union (UDMPU) and UDM administrators have been in contract negotiations since November, and have reached agreement on 96 percent of the issues before them. However, the two sides are apart on wage increases and retirement benefits.

Instead of bargaining in good faith to resolve the remaining issues, university officials threatened to terminate the contract, in a coercive effort to force faculty to agree to the administration’s terms. Termination of the current contract could result in the loss of contractual benefits and protections for all full-time faculty at the McNichols campus of the university.

“Negotiations have been constructive in many areas,” UDMPU President Prasad Venugopal said.  “Recognizing the university’s fiscal challenges, we have made significant concessions on both issues, compared to our current contract, to help the administration deal with any financial burdens.”

“In contrast, the university, which only provided a first economic proposal four months into bargaining, has not been willing to honor the financial packages they placed on the table in April and July. Rather, for the first time in UDM’s history, they have invoked an extreme option that would allow them to terminate our current contract.”

“We remain committed to staying at the table,” Venugopal said. “We do this mindful of the central role played by faculty in providing ‘excellent student-centered’ education, in the Jesuit and Mercy traditions, at the University of Detroit Mercy. We believe a negotiated settlement can be reached and are hopeful that the university will not resort to implementing any drastic measures that will directly impact the quality of education that our students and their families have come to expect from the University of Detroit Mercy.”

A protest by faculty members is planned for 1 p.m. on Monday at the corner of Puritan and Turner streets (south of McNichols, west of Livernois) in Detroit. UDM President Antoine Garibaldi is expected to attend a press conference with Gov. Rick Snyder and Detroit Mayor Dave Bing at that location.

Both sides will continue to bargain with the assistance of a Nation Labor Relations Board mediator.