All negotiations between the Service Employee International Union and UR came to an end on March 17.

“While the campus and hospital contracts had historically been negotiated separately, and had each been effective for two-year periods, the 2002 contracts had a mutual expiration date in October 2004,” Manager of Labor Relations Fay Norton said. “Because of this mutual expiration, representatives of both the campus and the hospital met and negotiated with a university management team for this new agreement.”

Talks began in September of last year.

Two new contracts have been signed, one with the Local 200 SEIU, the union of River Campus employees, and the other with the 1199 SEIU upstate New York, the union of the medical center and hospital workers.

The SEIU represents a variety of service employees from the campus and the medical center.

Included are workers in building and dining services, drivers and transporters, patient-unit secretaries, patient-care technicians, stock keepers and other service providers.

“We, the hospital, and the campus management had hoped for another two-year contract, but the union just asked for an interim agreement that would lead them into 2005,” Norton said. “They said they weren’t prepared to negotiate a two-year contract. And, after conversations back and forth, we did agree to negotiate a one-year agreement.”

The major issues that were negotiated in this contract were wages and benefits.

Both sides have agreed to maintain the current level of benefits that the employees currently enjoy, and accept a 2.75 percent increase in their wages.

“One of the most important things to the employees is their benefit levels, and we agreed to maintain their benefits at the exact same levels that they currently enjoy,” Norton said. “And we also did negotiate an increase of 2.75 percent in their wages across the board.”

But since wages and benefits are tied together, a new-hire table will be applied to newly hired employees beginning April 3 to finance the wages and benefits.

“In order to maintain the benefit level they needed and wanted, and also to give them a increase in their wages, we negotiated that employees who are hired after April 3, will be on a different wage table than the current employees, but would remain competitive with the market,” Norton said.

Another issue that was discussed in these negotiations was the training upgrade fund, which is run by the union and funded by the employers.

The original purpose of this training fund was to provide educational opportunities and skill-enhancing opportunities to employees.

Previously, the employees covered under the university tuition program would only be eligible for tuition for courses that are taken at accredited colleges and universities.

But the training fund proposal provides for employer contributions to the fund and would allow employees to take other approved training programs as well.

“We did agree to [the training upgrading fund proposal], with the stipulation that employees would then no longer be covered under our tuition program,” Norton said.

A joint task force, consisting of representatives from the hospital, the university and the union, has also been created to look into potential cost-initiatives for the health care plans because of the rising health care costs.

Moreover, a subcommittee has also been created to look into transferring some employees from the university to the hospital during the summer time, when there is a shortage of jobs for employees at the university.

The employees will be paid a lump sum retroactively to make up for the lag period from October 2004 to present.

“We’re glad that the employees will have access to university courses as well as other training courses, and that they will be able to maintain the current benefit levels and receive a wage increase,” Norton said.

The new contracts will be valid through Oct. 1, and the talks are expected to start again during early September of this year.

Sridharan can be reached at

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