Ferris faculty picket again over contract dispute

BIG RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A day after a judge ordered them back to  class, some Ferris State University faculty were back on the picket  line, demanding a better contract.

Several teachers demonstrated  Tuesday morning in Grand Rapids, where Ferris State has some classes. A  larger group walked the picket line on the university’s main campus in  Big Rapids, holding signs reading “no contract, no work.”

The last faculty contract expired June 30 and the two sides have been unable to agree on a new one.

The  biggest sticking point is the annual pay increase. The Ferris Faculty  Association's last offer was a 2.75 percent increase yearly over three  years. But the administration proposed a 1.5 percent increase yearly  over five years.

A university spokesperson said the offer is “fair  and equitable” as the school faces declining enrollment. She said the  administration doesn’t want to pass costs on to students by raising  tuition.

But the union doesn't buy it. The Ferris Faculty  Association argues the administration's proposed pay increase doesn't  keep up with the cost of living.

Monday, a Mecosta County judge issued an injunction,  ordering the teachers to return to their classrooms, but allowing them  to continue to picket during free periods. It’s unclear how many people  were following that order Tuesday.

“We just hope that people will  get behind us and we can get this contract settled and we can just get  back to doing what we love to do, which is teach our students,” said  Katherine Harris, who is an associate professor in English at Ferris  State.

Approximately 450 Ferris faculty participated in the strike Monday, which was also the first day of fall classes.

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