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With strike threat looming, Wayne State and professors talk through the holidays

With the threat of a faculty strike looming, both sides in Wayne State University contract talks say they'll continue working toward a deal.

The two sides have met over the holidays, and additional bargaining sessions scheduled. In the meantime, the faculty contract that expired last summer has been extended once again, this time through mid-February.

Talks “made some progress” on Thursday—but not enough, says Charles Parrish, a political science professor and lead negotiator for the faculty union

“It’s an ongoing process, but it’s really time we made some progress. The administration has really dragged its feet for a long time on this,” he said.

Parrish and other Wayne State professors accuse the university of “slow-walking” negotiations that have carried on since last summer, in an effort to wring “outrageous” concessions from faculty.

Wayne State had initially made a proposal that would have effectively ended the tenure system. The university later backed off that proposal after it provoked a major backlash.

While that’s now off the table, Parrish says the two sides are still far apart on some big issues, including pay, health benefits, teacher evaluations, and online learning opportunities.

Wayne State staff has authorized their union leadership to call a strike if they feel there’s no other way to get a fair contract. At this point, Parrish says he’s neither “optimistic nor pessimistic” the two sides can reach a deal soon.

A university spokesman confirmed the contract extension, and says talks between the two sides are “ongoing.”

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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