UC, Union Agree to 3-Year Contract By J. DOUGLAS ALLEN-TAYLOR

Tuesday May 10, 2005

With the threat of union action looming, the University of California and the American Federation of State, County And Municipal Employees (AFSCME) have agreed to a system-wide contract for UC’s 7,300 service workers across the state. The new three-year contract runs through January 2008. 

AFSCME workers voted in March to authorize a full strike in the event that contract negotiations had broken down, and held a held a one-day strike last month. 

Both sides said they were pleased with the agreement. In a prepared statement, UC Director of Labor Relations Howard Pripas called it a “fair agreement. The contract rewards all our service workers for their continued hard work, and it is financially realistic.” 

Deborah Grabelle, AFSCME organizer for UC Berkeley, said the contract was “overwhelmingly ratified by our members.” 

Grabelle said that the next step for the union would be to work for what she called “a real living wage. Chancellor [Robert] Birgenau says he supports that.” 

While they agreed on a contract, however, the two sides disagreed on the most important parts of that contract, or whether the union’s job action had any affect upon the settlement. 

University officials said the highlights were a 10 percent across-the-board pay increase over the three-year life of the contract, expanded employee development and training, concessions on parking rates for AFSCME members, and no changes in salary-based health insurance premiums. 

Grabelle said current UC service employees will get the first chance at promotions “if they are qualified. In the past, workers have seen outside people come in and fill positions, getting paid more than qualified people who have been on the job for years.” 

Grabelle also said that the two sides agreed that “if more money is released to the university by the state, the university has to pass it on to the employees or else make up the difference itself. If the university fails to do so, the union has the right to strike.” 

As for the last strike, in its formal release on the agreement, UC officials said the one-day April 14 strike had “minimal impact on operations and services at most UC campuses. Less than one third of UC service workers participated along with limited numbers of individuals from other unions.” 

Grabelle said that conclusion was not accurate. 

“Hundreds of classes had to be moved outdoors, and thousands of students participated with us,” she said. “Many services had to be canceled.” ›