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Northeastern University, adjuncts reach labor deal

Days before a threatened walkout, adjunct faculty members at Northeastern University reached a tentative contract settlement with campus administrators Thursday, a three-year agreement that would provide double-digit raises for most instructors.

The adjunct faculty union had been negotiating with the university for more than 15 months, and last month said its members would stage a one-day strike if they did not have a labor contract by Jan. 19.

In a message sent to faculty and staff Thursday, administrators said the agreement was reached after the university told union representatives the proposed work stoppage would have no impact on the university’s final offer.


The union said the agreement “makes significant progress in compensation and course stability, professional development, and the faculty role in decisions that affect their work.”

Adjunct professors do not have long-term contracts with the school and are hired on a per-class basis. Many colleges rely heavily on them to teach courses, and the Northeastern union represents some 900 instructors.

The union is part of Service Employees International Union Local 509, which in the past two years has helped organize adjunct faculty at a number of Boston-area colleges, including Tufts University, Bentley University, and Brandeis University.

In February, adjunct professors at Boston University voted to unionize by a 2-1 margin.

The effort has mirrored the growing ranks of part-time faculty. In 2011, more than 40 percent of faculty nationwide were part time, compared with just 16 percent that were full-time and tenured, according to the American Association of University Professors.

Their compensation varies widely depending on the course.

At Northeastern, adjunct faculty will now be compensated for courses canceled shortly before a semester begins, and will have a greater voice in “decisions that impact their teaching and their students — including a formal process to deal with workplace conflicts and violations,” the union said.


“Today, we add our voices to the chorus of faculty who have organized to improve higher education across the country,” said Haley Malm, a bargaining team leader at Northeastern. “As one of the lowest-paid adjuncts on campus, this contract will result in a double-digit raise. Negotiations are always tough, but I think that’s a clear win.”

Most adjunct faculty will see pay increases of at least 12 percent over the next three years, the union said.

In December, dozens of full-time, tenured professors wrote university president Joseph Aoun in support of their part-time colleagues.

The settlement is subject to a ratification vote by the union, which has not yet been scheduled.

Northeastern provost James Bean described the agreement as “fair and equitable.”

“The university has offered competitive salary increases for part-time faculty,” he wrote to faculty and staff. “We believe these increases are in keeping with the market for faculty talent and consistent with the university’s overall compensation strategy.”

The university will provide qualifying part-time faculty with access to the university’s three health plans with a 50 percent contribution from Northeastern, he added.

The agreement prohibits strikes and pickets during the life of the contract, Bean said. It also includes protections to preserve the university’s flexibility.

Peter Schworm can be reached at schworm@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @globepete.