Chairman Takes Heat over Raises to Faculty ; EDUCATION

Article excerpt

Lorne Adrain acknowledges failing to keep governor informed on status of negotiations with unions at public colleges

PROVIDENCE -- In the face of a public rebuke from Governor Chafee, the chairman of the Board of Governors for Higher Education said Thursday that he could have done a better job of communicating with the governor the progress of contract negotiations with four unions at the public colleges.

Negotiators for the board recently reached tentative contract agreements with four unions, providing a 3-percent raise in each of three years. The unions represent the University of Rhode Island faculty, URI graduate students, and professional staff associations at Rhode Island College and the Community College of Rhode Island.

The compounded raises set a difficult precedent at a time when the director of administration, Richard A. Licht, is about to begin negotiations with unions representing thousands of state employees, said Stephen R. Hourahan, a top Chafee aide.

Chafee learned of the proposed raises on Wednesday and told Lorne Adrain, chairman of the Board of Governors, that they were unacceptable.

In a follow-up statement, Chafee said he strongly objected to the four contract proposals at a time when other state employees, taxpayers, and college students and their families are facing severe financial strain.

"It's not that these fine faculty and staff members don't deserve a raise, but when other state employees have seen their COLAs [cost- of-living adjustments] cut and their pensions altered, this is an issue of basic fairness and common sense," Chafee said.

"The Board of Governors should have been more mindful of the challenges facing the taxpayers and tuition payers who support our state colleges and university," Chafee said.

Adrain said, "The governor has a job to do, and we have a job to do.

"I could have done a better job of communicating to the governor's office every stage of the [negotiating] process," he said.

"The fact that I didn't do that contributed to where we are now. Clearly I didn't do enough," he said.

Echoing Chafee's statement, Hourahan said that "fairness and common sense" dictate that the state and the Board of Governors be consistent in their approach to labor negotiations. …