It’s one of those Berkeley issues that never seems to go away: parking.
So it should come as no surprise that parking was at the center of all-day negotiations Tuesday between the University of California and American Federation of County, State and Municipal Employees, a union representing about 800 workers at UC Berkeley.
The university wants to raise parking fees from $71 to $75 a month for AFSCME employees working the day shift and from $31 to $35 for those working at night. The union wants to keep the fees at their current level, or even reduce them.
“We make less than anyone else on campus and to continually raise rates is ludicrous,” said John Sims, a UC Berkeley food service worker and trustee of the AFSCME executive board.
Nadesan Permaul, director of transportation for UC Berkeley, said raising fees is important for two reasons. First, the university needs to cover costs of building new parking lots, like the Underhill structure on the south side of campus and the Lower Hearst structure on the north side.
Second, under agreement with the city, the university is working to keep parking fees at prevailing market rates to encourage employees to seek inexpensive, environmentally-friendly alternatives to driving to work, Permaul said.
In December, the university and union wrote two systemwide contracts, one for service workers and one for patient care technicians, but left several issues, including parking fees, open for renegotiation. University and union representatives have been meeting at campuses throughout the UC system on the parking issue since May. All told, the union represents 17,000 workers at nine UC campuses.
Union officials contend that the contract allows for renegotiation of any “parking-related” issues. As such, they are asking for van pools that would pick up employees at their homes and transit passes that could be used on BART, AC Transit and other systems.
Debra Harrington, UC Berkeley’s manager of labor relations, said the clause only allows for renegotiation of parking fees. But, she said the university is open to the union’s ideas about transportation alternatives.
Union officials invited a reporter to attend the bargaining session Tuesday morning, but the university declined to sit down at the table with the reporter present.
Stephen DeLuca, a UC Berkeley cook participating in the negotiations, said the university’s position was indicative of its attempt to “control” the bargaining process.
University officials said that they had invited a member of the UC Berkeley student government to attend the session. They argued that the student representative, who did not show up, would have been the appropriate funnel to the public.
There was no indication that the university and union had reached agreement at press time Tuesday.