An unfair labor practice complaint may be coming from the Non-Tenure Track Faculty Association after the Head Start programs stayed open during spring break.
Keith Wilson, chair of the union's grievance committee, said in a news release that the preschool program was forced to stay open for the first time in its history and its 35 faculty had to report to work. He said this is a violation of Illinois labor law and could cost the university about $18,000.
SIUC Chancellor Rita Cheng said "it is both a right and a responsibility of the university administration to establish the dates, times and hours of its operation."
She because it because it is federally funded grant program, Head Start must have a minimum number of classroom days. She said issues such as weather-related closures and school district calendars led to days being scheduled during spring break. She said this information was clarified with an NTTFA official in February.
"The University complied with the current contract language, and therefore no violation of Illinois labor law occurred," Cheng said." Requiring employees to meet the responsibilities of their employment does not incur additional cost to the University."
Wilson said non-tenure track faculty is restricted to time off during university breaks and holidays because they do not have vacation time.
Cheng said non-tenure track faculty members on a nine-month assignment, such as those in the Head Start program, are unable to earn or accrue vacation benefits and must perform their duties unless they acquire approved leave status.
Wilson said there was a tentative agreement that the program would be closed for spring break, but that agreement was not reached in a completed contract. Head Start being closed through spring break was part of both offers.
"I believe the threat of keeping Head Start open over spring break was a bargaining tactic intended to apply pressure on our bargaining team to accept one of the two offers made by the administrations bargaining team," Wilson said in a news release. "After our team withstood that pressure and did not accept either offer, the administration carried through on their threat and kept Head Start open as a punishment."
Cheng said the issue of spring break periods for Head Start employees was raised during negotiations and the university offered language that would allow the employees to take spring break at the same time as the school districts to which they were assigned.
She said both parties agreed to that, but the NTT refused other proposals and no agreement has been ratified.
Wilson said the union is consulting with its attorney on getting Head Start faculty compensated for the "loss of four va-cation days" but that an unfair labor practice complaint is likely.