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posted: 5/22/2014 5:30 AM

Harper College, faculty OK contract extension

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The Harper College board on Wednesday approved a two-year contract extension with its faculty union.

The pact provides no base salary raises, but union members will receive a 3.1 percent step increase on the faculty salary schedule in the first year and a 3 percent step increase in the second year.

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In a 6-0 vote, the board signed off on the agreement with the Cook County College Teachers Union Local 1600, which represents about 230 full-time faculty members. Gregory Dowell, the board's vice chairman, was absent from the meeting.

Officials say the deal is fiscally responsible and keeps pay for Harper instructors competitive with that of their peers at other schools. Last year, the average salary was $76,889.

"What we're voting on is reasonable for both sides and works well for, again, the faculty and the board and also our community," Harper College Faculty Senate President Tom Dowd said.

Negotiations began about four months ago, well in advance of the current contract's expiration in 2015 and "out of the limelight" of typical talks, Dowd said.

"I really view this as close to as mutual interest bargaining as I've ever been around," Harper President Ken Ender said. "Both parties came to the table to say, 'OK, how can we make this work for everybody?'"

The step increases will cost the Palatine-based community college an additional $687,000 for the 2015-16 school year and $600,000 the following year.

If state or federal laws affect the cost or availability of Harper's health insurance plans, the contract allows both sides to reopen talks.

The deal takes effect July 2015.

It marks the third time Harper and the union have agreed to extend the 2006-2010 contract.

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