Junne Park, Photo Editor

The ongoing negotiations between the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and the University, which have been repeatedly stalled by an inability to compromise on controversial issues such as health care, will continue today, Thursday, Nov. 15. Employees’ contracts have been extended several times since Sept. 22 and are set to expire Thursday at 11:59 p.m., but will be extended again in the event that an agreement is not reached.

UR has modified its proposals on a number of contentious issues on Friday, Nov. 9. According to Teri D’Agostino, University spokeswoman on the issue, the proposal will allow union employees to remain on the National Benefits Fund health care plan rather than switch to University health care coverage. UR has also decreased its original demand that employees contribute to health care premiums, asking that they make a contribution of $25 per pay period and has dropped its proposal on subcontracting as well.

UR has maintained its proposal of a 2 percent pay increase and has modified Short-Term and Long-Term Disability programs to match the policies for non-union employees.

In response to the University’s stance in the negotiations, UR students, led by the organizations Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), Amnesty International, the Black Students’ Union (BSU) and the Student Association of Vegan and Vegetarian Youth (SAVVY) created and delivered a petition with 500 signatures to UR President Joel Seligman’s office on Friday, Nov. 2 in support of the union side of the negotiations. Seligman and Vice President of the University Paul Burgett met with three of the students on Nov. 8 to hear their concerns.

Take Five Scholar Kelly Rickert, a member of SDS, participated in the march and attended the Nov. 8 meeting.

“I think it’s important to make sure everyone in this community is being taken care of,” Rickert said. “Our purpose in going was just to show that there’s a strong student sentiment and concern about the issue. We’re trying to bring up the point that it’s not just about [the bottom line], it’s about people and their welfare.”

On Nov. 5, an open letter written by Professor of Anthropology Thomas Gibson and signed by 32 UR faculty members was sent to Seligman. The letter supported the union side of the negotiations. It concluded, “As tenured and tenure-track faculty members, we are concerned with the failure of the University administration to live up to its obligations to its own employees and to the local community. As the beneficiaries of some of the most secure jobs and the best benefit packages in the modern economy, the undersigned tenure-track professors of [UR] call on the administration to bring negotiations with the service employees to a rapid conclusion, leaving their hard-won benefits package intact.”

Gibson acknowledged that there is “always friction around the time of a new contract,” but was prompted to take action when he heard that the University was removing support from the health care plan. Since the letter was written, UR’s stance on health care has been modified.

Danforth Dining Hall employee Tristan Hickson expressed  tentative optimism about the negotiations and stated that opinions differed among workers.

“Some of us don’t mind paying a little extra, others do. It varies,” Hickson said. “But at the end of the day, I still want my benefits … [the union and UR] are going to have to come to a conclusion — they need to fill the jobs. Whatever happens at Thursday’s negotiations, eventually they’ll come to a conclusion. They have to. Something good will come out of it.”

On Wednesday, Nov. 14, a somber candlelight vigil attended by about 50 students and members of the University community who support the workers’ cause was held on the steps of Rush Rhees Library in preparation for Thursday’s negotiations.

Remus is a member of the class of 2016.

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