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Regents, faculty accept contract

Negotiators for the state faculty union and the Board of Regents approved a new contract Tuesday that calls for an average 4 percent pay raise and, for the first time, tackles a problem that has vexed many veteran professors.

The problem is salary compression _ what happens when senior professors earn only slightly more (and in some cases less) than young professors with lesser credentials. The problem is usually caused by recent changes in the job market, coupled with a paucity of raises over the years for professors who stay put.

After years of trying, the United Faculty of Florida got state officials to dedicate a quarter of next year's pay raise to salary compression. Each college in the state university system will be asked to develop its own plan for distributing the money, but deans and faculty must include market comparisons for all professors, years of service and an evaluation of performance over the past 10 years.

Union president Kris Anderson said the plan does not have as much money as the union would have liked, "but it's a real breakthrough. They've always said, "Trust us and give us (the right to make) discretionary raises.' We feel this a real step forward."

Legislators already have budgeted for a 4 percent increase in university salaries. If professors and regents ratify the new contract, every professor will get a $600 raise. After money for salary compression, 9 percent promotional raises and some other adjustments are taken out, the rest will be paid in discretionary raises.

The proposed contract also expands eligibility for a controversial teacher incentive program. Anderson said the union will provide more details when it asks all professors to ratify the contract, probably within a month.