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Union contract ratified after three years of negotiation

After three years of negotiation, a campus labor union has ratified a contract that includes a one-time lump sum bonus.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) is the second-largest labor union representing state, county, city and university workers in the state of Florida. William McClelland, president of AFSCME, said approximately 1,800 to 2,000 employees are represented at USF by AFSCME.

AFSCME members voted on a contract that describes the terms and conditions of their employment and covers a wide range of issues, including the one-time lump sum bonus, McClelland said.

The union contract voted on by AFSCME members is a “collective bargaining agreement,” McClelland said.

Voting occurred at each of USF’s campuses and concluded at 6 p.m. Sept. 23, he said.

“We’ve had tremendous response and interest in this by the staff and we’ve had hundreds of employees involved so far,” McClelland said.

More than 700 employees participated in the vote and 98 percent of them voted “yes” to ratify the collective bargaining agreement, McClelland said. 

The collective bargaining agreement defines employee layoff rights, performance evaluations, leave policies, grievance procedures, pay and bonuses, McClelland said.

Now that it is ratified, McClelland said, the collective bargaining agreement is a three-year contract.

“We had a lot of issues and had to work very hard to get an agreement on some issues, and some of it I’m not satisfied with,” he said.

AFSCME will be continuing negotiations to try to work out issues still present in the agreement.

“For each of the next three fiscal years, we can reopen negotiations on wages and three other issues,” McClelland said. “Our next fiscal year begins on July 1, 2009, so we need to start negotiations before the middle of February.”

President Judy Genshaft wrote in a statement that she’s glad to have come to an agreement with the union.

“Monetarily recognizing our employees is one of our core principles and top priorities,” she wrote.

AFSCME will be meeting as a union to decide which issues will be brought back to the table, McClelland said.

“In order to get our people some pay we had to agree to something that I think still needs work,” McClelland said.  “The most important thing we still need is to negotiate people’s salaries. There are many pay issues that still need to be addressed.”

The one-time lump sum bonus was one of the focuses of the vote, though it did not change salaries or affect retirement, McClelland said.

“Even though we got the bonus,” McClelland said,  “I’m unhappy that we still didn’t get a comprehensive paid plan, which I think still needs to be put into place.”

The main focus of the agreement was to get something that allowed for some salary relief for the staff, he said.

AFSCME is also concerned about the  number of employee layoffs that have occurred at USF recently, McClelland said.  Many members are dissatisfied with how layoffs were handled.

Performance evaluations are another concern of AFSCME. Between AFSCME and the Board of Trustees there is not a clear agreement on what performance standards of employees are, he said.

McClelland said more work needs to be done on grievance procedures as well, because there is also not a clear agreement on what procedures employees should follow to file a grievance.

The biggest fault, however, is the lack of any sort of salary increase for employees, McClelland said.

“The issue of salaries is what most people are going to be interested in when we start negotiations for next time,” McClelland said.