Union, university reach salary deal

    The University of California and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3299 reached a tentative agreement April 18 over wages for the more than 7,000 university service workers represented by the union.

    Johnny Vy
    Striking a deal:

    The agreement, still subject to ratification by union members, includes a 10-percent wage increase for all service workers. The increase will be implemented over three years beginning Oct. 1, 2005, if the agreement is ratified.

    Such increases are “consistent with the university’s budget compact with the governor and subject to final state-funding appropriations in each year,” UC spokesman Noel Van Nyhuis said.

    Another element of the agreement entails a $9-per-hour minimum wage, an increase from the $8.32 wage currently paid to food service workers.

    The compromise also includes 24 hours per year of paid education leave, a minimum of one free meal per shift for food-service workers and a $250 retroactive pay increase for the 2004-05 year.

    The agreement makes no mention, however, of a “step system” — a set of graduated, guaranteed salary increases for service workers who decide to stay with their job for multiple years. The inclusion of such a system was one of several goals proposed by the union for the new contract.

    “Workers are overjoyed that we were able to reach some kind of conclusion … but they’re definitely sad that the agreement doesn’t have anything about a step system,” AFSCME organizer Jessica Lopez said.

    Workers at all UC campuses will vote on the offer within the next three weeks. If ratified, terms of the agreement will become effective from the date of its passage through Jan. 31, 2008. If it fails, however, negotiations between the university and the union will begin again.

    “People are strongly considering the weight of three more years without a step system,” Lopez said. “Workers are realizing the power they have when they’re united. If they don’t accept this [agreement] it will mean a lot — it means that they’re willing to strike again.”

    The university, however, believes the agreement is both “fair and financially realistic given our resources and the level of state salary funding promised under our budget compact with the governor,” UC Director of Labor Relations Howard Pripas stated in a press release.

    The concessions by the university, the union believes, are the direct result of the statewide one-day strike held April 14 at all UC campuses.

    “We met with the university about 30 times before this strike, and we should have come to this conclusion a long time ago,” Lopez said. “It’s really apparent that it was the strike that got them to really bargain and go to the table with us.”

    The university, however, said the strike had nothing to do with the deal.

    “The strike had no effect,” Van Nyhuis said. “Our position all along was that our agreement would be dependent on state funding and in line with the governor’s compact.”

    The university is currently considering filing an official complaint against the union over the strike, alleging that the actions violated state law because the strike occurred before impasse proceedings between the university and the union were officially over.

    The complaint would be filed to the Public Employees Relations Board, the governing body that oversees union negotiations.

    “We haven’t made any decisions, but if we file a complaint to PERB, they will launch an investigation,” Van Nyhuis said.

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