Security contract provisions were finalized in January, after months of negotiations extended well past the previous contract’s expiration on Nov. 10, 2007. The UR Security Officers Association, a union comprised of over 70 UR Security employees according to the URSOA Web site, began to present security officers’ interests to University representatives on Oct. 24, 2007. Director of Human Relations Fay Norton accounted for the three-month interval of lengthy discussion between the University and URSOA.
“It is important to understand that even the smallest things have to be agreed upon,” Norton said. “For example, I make a proposal, you make counter proposal, then, by the time you finish, it doesn’t resemble what you started with.”
The new contract is set to expire on Nov. 8, 2009.
The contract allows security officers a wage increase of three percent, which retroactively covers the three-month negotiation period, effective Nov. 10, 2007. Though not officially discussed during negotiations, it was also simultaneously decided to adjust wages twice over the next two years to maintain competitive wages in the marketplace.
URSOA’s original proposals were cut down significantly in the process. Proposals withdrawn during deliberations included establishing a Peace Officer Training Program, new training courses, a more permanent Lead Officer Program and the addition of a fourth platoon to an existing three shifts of officers.
URSOA had asked for a fourth platoon to cover an extra shift on River Campus, a shift that is currently staffed by officers working overtime hours. However, this proposal was not agreed upon by the University. Norton explained the University’s concern in committing long-term to a fourth platoon.
“We really didn’t want to agree to that in case we didn’t need it over two years,” she said.
Earlier in the contract’s negotiations URSOA sought to increase training of officers to a level that would classify them as Peace Officers.
Peace Officers have responsibilities that UR security officers must currently rely on Rochester police to carry through; Peace Officers may detain suspects, conduct research and carry non-lethal weapons for self-defense.
“Peace Officer status wasn’t discussed at the table too much,” Norton said. Norton explained that these were moved off the agenda and given to UR President Joel Seligman and a task committee to decide.
No significant changes were made to the Lead Officer Program, though URSOA originally had sights on developing the program that was established in 2006.
“Their proposals stemmed more from making a permanent classification,” Norton said.
The Lead Officer Program includes nine officers chosen by Director of Security Walter Mauldin who are specially assigned to specific areas across the UR campus and are up for annual review.
While many of URSOA’s original goals were cut back, much was achieved, according to Director of Security Walter Mauldin.
“This contract puts to writing certain objectives to be accomplished, together, in the important areas of improved skills through more training, continued technical innovations and a trial approach with staff scheduling that could be more amenable to individual officers,” he said.
There will be a few scheduling changes made and there will be a six-month trial period of the scheduling rotations. Reworded details about scheduling now allow for more flexible work week hours called “flex time.”
“In the old contract, the wording allowed compensatory time,” Norton said. “Instead of compensatory time, which is a legal term, we changed that to ‘flex time.'”
URSOA proposed to include new training courses for the workers. Specific courses were not included in final contract stipulations, but a committee will look into future changes to training. The newer contract specifies the continuation of a committee, originally created by the expired contract, that will examine unexplored possibilities.
“We put some more emphasis on a joint committee to discuss changes to training,” Norton said. “Security officers will bring ideas to this committee and present it to management and management will jointly evaluate training.”
Another joint committee will look into possibilities on advancing information technology for security. According to Norton, this committee will look into technology that will improve report writing – for example, placing computers in security cars.
Norton described the difficult process that the University and URSOA underwent to come to an agreement; at some point, a third party worked to help each party understand the other’s needs.
“Ultimately, we brought in a federal mediator to understand where both sides were coming from,” she said. “Federal mediation is a service provided by the government to provide a mediator to work with each of the teams and provides guidance and clarification.”
However, Norton did comment that URSOA’s methods of negotiating were professional and businesslike.
“It wasn’t adversarial,” she said.
Leber is a member of the class of 2011.