Staff union negotiations start to wind down

The state of contract negotiations improved between university officials and the staff union Tuesday as both sides came to the table willing to compromise.

“Both parties should feel that we came in good faith,” said John Dickinson, chief negotiator for the university administration. “This is supposed to be what negotiations are about.”

While nothing is set in stone, with some compromises contingent upon another, parties left the table with a general idea of the other’s expectations.

The university proposed to reinforce in official language that if a staff supervisor reprimands an employee, it should be in a private and practical manner.

“If this principle is violated, we want to know about it,” Dickinson said. “And without any fear of retaliation.”

Hector Ramos, chief negotiator for the staff union, said there should be a clear definition of what a practical reprimand is. A supervisor should not yell unless there’s imminent danger, such as warning an employee about a heavy object falling.   

“It should be in there so everyone is clear on it,” Ramos said. “The lawyer, the employee, the supervisor — everyone.”

On a pay increase, Dickinson countered the staff union’s original proposal for a 5 percent wage increase with a 2 percent increase and a small bonus for workers who receive exemplary evaluations. 

“Merit should drive compensation,” Dickinson said. 

Ramos returned with a 3.75 percent across-the-board increase for all staff. He said bonuses based on merit are too inequitable and too subjective.

At last month’s bargaining meeting, Ramos said the contract should be an accessible and primary source for questions staff may have.

Dickinson said the university is willing to provide someone who would assist staff in finding requested information. 

To further transparency, Ramos said all new employees should be given a copy of their contract and a letter from the staff union president, Susie Shannon.

Regarding grievance hearings, Dickinson said the university is willing to allow the union to file a grievance without a signature from the complainant until it goes to the first stage of grievance hearings. However, Ramos said this process would still be unequal to faculty union.

Furthermore, Dickinson said in the event of a grievance receiving arbitration, that the university would be willing to split the arbitration cost. Currently, the cost of arbitration falls to the party that lost in court.

At the end of the meeting, both parties expressed optimism that the negotiations could conclude in time for
ratification before the beginning of 2015. 

“If we come to the next meeting as prepared as we were today, we should knock this thing out,” Dickinson said. 

The next bargaining meeting is set for Nov. 12 at 1 p.m. in the Student Services building.