UC seeks mediation for C.U.E. negotiations

The University of California asked the Coalition of University Employees to voluntarily enter mediation facilitated by the Chair of the State Mediation and Conciliation Service on Dec. 10, 2002.

The request comes after the state Public Employee Relations Board denied the University of California’s claim that the conflict with C.U.E. be declared an impasse.

The University of California informed C.U.E. that it would be willing to enter informal, pre-impasse mediation provided it was facilitated by the chair of the State Mediation and Conciliation Service. Dates and the terms of the mediation are still being negotiated.

In agreeing to the informal mediation, the University of California has requested that C.U.E. commit to a number of assurances designed to demonstrate its good-faith interest in a fair and swift resolution to the contract talks, which include agreeing not to strike during informal mediation while also agreeing to go straight to fact finding, or non-binding arbitration, if informal mediation produces no agreement and the state mediator declares an impasse.

Additionally, the University of California filed new charges against C.U.E. for continued, intermittent strikes in October 2002 when bargaining was continuing. The first series of strikes by C.U.E. undertaken at UC Berkeley and at the Office of the President in Oakland, Calif., are the subject of a complaint issued by PERB, and it is clear to the university that intermittent strikes or threats of strikes are serious evidence of bad-faith bargaining.

PERB denied the request by the University of California, believing that neither party bargained in good faith and citing the outstanding unfair labor practice charges.

C.U.E. has filed over 20 unfair labor practice charges against the university with PERB. The university has filed two against C.U.E.

According to statute, PERB, which is a state agency headed by five board members appointed by the governor, has five business days from the filing date to decide if negotiations are at an impasse. If it is determined that the parties are at an impasse, PERB will make a formal declaration and the State Mediation and Conciliation Service will appoint a mediator.

During the mediation phase, a mediator examines whether either party is willing to make a movement in the negotiations. If progress fails to be made, then the groups will enter a fact-finding phase led by a neutral arbiter and will work towards a non-binding solution.

The groups have been in contract negotiation since May 20, 2001.

C.U.E. wants the university to offer clerical workers a 15 percent salary increase, rather than the 1.5 percent the university has offered all its employees. The university said that poor state economy and lean budget are to blame for the ability of the university to offer only a 1.5 percent salary increase to all employees systemwide. C.U.E., on the other hand, continues to maintain that the university has the funding for the $61.2 million, 15 percent wage increase from a pool of $2.023 billion in unrestricted funds.

Sally Hampton, Local 5 president of C.U.E. and a book restorer at Geisel Library, said the 1.5 percent offer is too small an increase for those who make small salaries.

“”One-point-five percent at $250,000 a year is a nice round number,”” she said. “”At $30,000, it sucks.””

Citing increases in other fees associated with working for the university, such as parking fees and health insurance, Hampton said that the salary increase are insufficient.

On Oct. 14 and Oct. 15, members of C.U.E. at four UC campuses — Davis, Riverside, Santa Barbara and Santa Cruz — went on strike. The union rejected the university’s most recent contract offer on Oct. 31.

In its ruling, PERB stated that it could not sanction the University of California’s impasse declaration due primarily to the number of unresolved unfair labor practice charges filed by both parties. Instead, PERB directed the parties to try to resolve differences through more discussions.

Citing “”remaining significant differences,”” the University of California requested that the state Public Employment Relations Board declare an impasse in the negotiations between the university and C.U.E. and appoint a third-party mediator.

The University of California released a statement on Nov. 18 declaring an impasse, but the forms were not filed until later in the week, said Paul Schwartz, a spokesman for the university. On Nov. 14, the university asked C.U.E. to join it in declaring a mutual impasse, stating the university “”had no further movement to make”” following a Nov. 13 proposal by the union.