Nearly 4,000 classified workers at Oregon’s public universities have concluded negotiations on a two-year contract that makes significant advances towards equity and begins to prioritize frontline student and campus services.
If members of Service Employees International Union Local 503 ratify the settlement — reached just before dawn Thursday in a marathon negotiating session after eight months of bargaining — they will receive one or two longevity increases (depending on length of service) and two cost-of-living adjustments in the next 21 months.
Because of the settlement, members of the union’s bargaining team cancelled strike votes at Oregon University System campuses in Ashland, Corvallis, Eugene, Klamath Falls, La Grande, Monmouth and Portland and instead scheduled information sessions for members. The agreement will only become final if members ratify it by mail ballot in the coming weeks.
“Our team is very pleased with the agreement,” said Marc Nisenfeld, a development engineer at Portland State University who served as bargaining chair. “We said from day one that all we sought was fairness and equity. Early this morning, we finally got there. I am especially grateful to faculty members, students and the general public for reaching out to the Chancellor in the past few days to call for a fair settlement that honors the role of classified workers and prioritizes the services we provide. We noticed a markedly different tone from management’s negotiators.”
Heather Conroy, SEIU 503 Executive Director, added: “This agreement is a great step forward in addressing some of the core issues of equity and balanced priorities at OUS. We look forward to continuing our work with other university stakeholders to ensure that OUS’s priorities are consistent with the values of Oregonians and the needs of students.”
These are key elements of the proposed settlement:
• All workers will receive a 1.5% cost-of-living adjustment effective Dec. 1 and another 1.45% COLA effective 1/1/13.
• All workers who are not at the top of the longevity step-progression pay scale will receive two step increases during the life of the contract six months from the anniversary date of their time in grade.
• A 10th longevity progression step will be added to the scale Jan. 1, 2013, so that all workers who have been “topped out” at the ninth step — about 30% of those in the bargaining unit — will receive an increase on that date and all workers will get a 10th step in the future. This was a key issue for members who saw it as lack of parity with other state workers who have had the 10th step for four years.
• Workers in 20 selected classifications will receive additional upgrades in classification, increases in salary or differential pay.
• Classified workers will take 7 to 11 unpaid furlough days over the next 21 months depending on pay grade, down from 8 to 16 furlough days in the 2009-11 contract.
• OUS will continue to make payments to the Public Employee Retirement System on the workers’ behalf.
• OUS will absorb an additional 5% of employees’ health insurance premium costs and classified workers will start contributing 5% of the cost of premiums in December. Employees earning $33,792 a year or less at the start of the contract will receive an annual $480 subsidy to help offset this cost.
• Union members sought and received improved contract language in about two dozen areas ranging from family medical leave to reclassification to outsourcing of work.