Negotiations between the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and UR have continued without resolution since the union workers’ current contract expired on Sept. 22. The negotiations affect approximately 1,800 workers at Strong Memorial Hospital and the River Campus. The contract was set to expire on Sept. 22 and has been extended repeatedly; the most recent extension will last until Nov. 3.
The primary conflict in the negotiations regards a new health care policy. In an effort to further the negotiations, both sides have made concessions with wage increase proposals. UR is also no longer asking that union employees join the University health plans and has offered to increase its contribution to the plan they currently use with the National Benefits Fund, according to Teri D’Agostino, University spokeswoman on the issue.
According to an SEIU press release issued Oct. 26, workers “voted nearly unanimously to authorize union leaders to call more actions, including the possibility of a one day work stoppage to protest UR management’s stance in collective bargaining. The secret ballot vote tally contained only 12 ‘no’ votes of the 1,000 cast.”
Bruce Popper, union vice president for the region, explained that this vote authorizes union organizers to coordinate further actions including demonstrations, picketing and a one-day work stoppage at the most extreme. There are currently no plans in place for a work stoppage, but the vote has given union organizers authority to do so should other approaches fail. By law, the union would need to give a 10-day notice before a strike.
Popper said that involvement and participation has been growing as negotiations have continued.
“The workers are getting more and more involved; the number of people who showed up to vote is staggering,” he said. “We now have the authority of the workers to plan a strike if other options don’t work.”
Remus is a member of the class of 2016.