After over two months of negotiations, members of the Service Employees International Union Local 200 United and the Local 1199 SEIU approved a contract agreement with the University in a 663 to 40 vote on Oct. 10. The previous contracts were set to expire at midnight on Saturday, Oct. 6, and a tentative agreement was reached at 11 p.m.

“What we wanted was a fair settlement and a fair contract,” UR Vice President for Human Resources Chuck Murphy said. “At the end of the day, the employees are still employees of the University, and we still want those folks to be doing the best by our students, by our patients, by our other customers, whoever they may be.”

The contracts, which are three years in length, were retroactively put into effect on Sept. 30. The two main features of these contracts involve an increase in wages and a decrease in the University’s contribution to the benefits fund. Despite this decrease in benefits fund contributions, all employee health care premiums will remain covered by the University.

“The overall agreement I think is fantastic,” 1199 SEIU Vice President Bruce Popper said in a press release.

Union members will see a three percent pay increase for each year of the contract. In addition, members hired since April 3, 2005 who have worked at the University for a total of two to five years will get a one-time raise of 25 cents per hour. This will be their first wage increase since June 11, 2006.

The University will be reducing its contribution to the SEIU National Benefits Fund from 29.5 percent of wages to 25.7 percent of wages. However, the employees themselves will not have to contribute to the premiums due to money-saving changes in the health care plan made over the past two years.

The University will reinvest the savings from the benefits toward a childcare program and an adult education programs for union employees. The University will be providing the childcare program with money to start it up. The hope is that the union will then receive grant money to expand the program.

“We recognize that… child care issues are often what are barriers to people getting to work on time or getting to work at all,” Murphy said.

The kinds of adult education courses will be determined by a committee looking for classes that will be beneficial both for the employees and the University. Employees will be given paid release for 5,000 hours a year the first year, which averages to approximately three-and-a-half hours per union member. In each following year of the contract, an additional 1,000 hours will be paid for by the University. This program, too, will be solidified in hopes of receiving grants to supplement the base.

“The child care fund and support for adult education are real breakthroughs,” Popper said in a press release. “Both programs will provide vital support for workers and their families.”

Philbrick is a member of the class of 2009.



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