Highlands University raising employees' salaries

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By David Giuliani

The Highlands University Board of Regents approved a contract with the faculty union last week, giving members an average of 10 percent increases.

The faculty union started a couple of years ago, and last week’s agreement was its first with the administration.

The regents also signed off on pay raises for nonunion employees. The lowest-paid workers will get the biggest increases.

Highlands President James Fries called the agreement with the faculty union a “historic document.”

“To my knowledge, this is the first time in the university’s and state’s history such an agreement has been reached. It’s an extremely important document for the university,” he said in a statement.

The Highlands faculty association approved the contract with a 54-1 vote a day before the regents’ decision.

Under the contract, minimum faculty salaries for 2007-08 will be raised to $45,000 for assistant professors, $51,000 for associate professors and $58,000 for full professors.

Highlands officials said the agreement also addresses salary compression, or the gap between recently hired faculty and faculty with several years at Highlands.

Fries said the agreement included a commitment to faculty salaries that is more than double the state appropriation this year. “It’s a win-win agreement,” he said.

Tom Ward, the union’s chief negotiator and president of the Highlands faculty association, said faculty were “thrilled” to reach the conclusion of the negotiations.

“This is a historic achievement, and we believe this agreement will benefit not only the faculty of NMHU, but the students, staff, administration and the larger community,” he said.

Unrelated to the union agreement, the university is increasing payments for adjunct faculty from $721 per credit hour to $800, effective for the fall semester. That will be paid for by reducing the number of classes taught by adjunct faculty.

The increases for nonunion employees will be 5.8 percent for those making less than $26,000 a year, 3 percent for those making from $26,000 to $45,000, 2.3 percent for those making $45,000 to $75,000, and 1.8 percent for those making more than $75,000.

“This helps people with lesser salaries, and that’s as it should be,” Regent Jesus Lopez said.

Bill Taylor, the school’s finance vice president, said the university was able to increase the university’s minimum wage to $8.50, so it would be higher than the state minimum wage of $7.50. That new state minimum will take effect Jan. 1.

Officials said the increase in the university’s minimum wage will affect only 27 employees.

“There aren’t that many, luckily,” Lopez said.