LA GRANDE - The Eastern Oregon University faculty union has its first contract after more than two years of negotiation with the school's administration.

The contract was announced after a lengthy negotiating session that ended at 10 p.m. April 19.

Rosemary Powers, president of the Associated Academic Professionals, said the new contract must be ratified by the faculty.

"It's done, and we're very happy with it," said Greg Monahan, EOU history professor and a member of the faculty union.

John Miller, EOU provost in charge of academic affairs, has been closely involved with the negotiating process. He could not be contacted for comment after the agreement was reached.

The primary achievement, Monahan said, was an average 6 percent salary increase for faculty members.

This will come from funds shifted from other programs, not from additional state funding, he said.

The summer stipend program is providing most of this increase. This has been used to pay salaries for staff working on research or updating curriculum over the summer months.

"The fund has grown a lot," Monahan said, noting that it would not be dropped due to the transfer of some of its funds.

What has not changed is the faculty's status as the lowest paid in the Oregon University System.

"Eastern is still dead last in the state," Monahan said.

Raising EOU faculty salaries to the level of comparable schools, Southern Oregon University and Western Oregon University, had been a goal of the union voiced at two faculty demonstrations in recent months.

At the last of these on April 14, Monahan had noted the two sides were close to a settlement. Average salaries for EOU faculty, up to now, are $52,700 for full professors, $44,700 for associate professors, $38,000 for assistant professors and $30,700 for instructors.

Western Oregon University salaries range from $60,000 for professors to $34,700 for instructors. Southern Oregon University professors earn about $57,800, instructors about $33,900.

Monahan said the union and EOU had agreed to start negotiations on a second contract, for 2006-07, in September 2005 rather than starting immediately.

"After 22 months we are all getting tired of it," he commented.

These negotiations will again consider salaries, he said. Also in the contract is a stipulation that fixed-term faculty, sometimes called adjunct, will not carry a teaching load higher than other universities in the state system. The EOU Pierce Library staff will also achieve faculty rank as a result of the new contract, Monahan said.

The union is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers. Originally certified by the state of Oregon in February 2003, the union faced a decertification drive about a year after it was voted into existence.

The decertification drive was defeated by more than a 2-1 margin in June 2004. Negotiations for a first contract resumed after this.

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