The ailing contract negotiations between the University of California and Coalition of University Employees (C.U.E.) shuffled off their mortal coil on Monday.

UC has sent a formal declaration of impasse to the state Pubic Employment Relations Board (PERB) to which both parties have filed several bad-faith bargaining complaints. The UC has asked C.U.E. to file an impasse as well. The announcement came after the latest round of contract bargaining meetings last week stalled. A declaration of impasse means one or both parties believe they cannot come to an agreement without outside intervention.

“Due to remaining significant differences, the University has declared an impasse to facilitate resolution of the contract talks,” a press release from the UC Office of the President said Monday.

A C.U.E. press release distributed Monday said clerical workers consider the UC declaration of impasse an example of bad faith bargaining.

“This is premature. On the same day they handed us a new wage structure, they declared impasse,” C.U.E. Chief Negotiator and clerical worker at UC Berkeley Margy Wilkinson said. “We’re going to ask Aretha Franklin to come in and sing ‘R-E-S-P-E-C-T’ so the University can get a spelling lesson.”

If PERB rules an impasse has occurred between the UC and C.U.E., it will appoint a state mediator to work with both parties to come to an agreement. If mediators do not achieve an agreement between the two parties, a state-appointed neutral labor expert will assemble a panel to review the matter and recommend a solution.

“We’ve been bargaining with C.U.E. for over a year and a half and it’s time to bring these negotiations to a close, even if that means formal impasse,” Gayle Cieszkiewicz, executive director of UC labor relations said in a press release Monday. “We’re offering the best wages possible given the state budget crisis and its impact on UC salaries, but the union continues to demand wage increases that far exceed available funding and would amount to preferential salary treatment for clerical employees.”

C.U.E. employees have been working without a contract for over a year. The UC presented C.U.E. with a final contract proposal Oct. 10 and required the union to respond by Oct. 31. C.U.E. rejected the offer but requested more time to prepare a counteroffer.

The University said it was expecting C.U.E. to present a reduced wage proposal at their meeting last week. Instead C.U.E.’s proposal increased them to include merit increases as well.

“The University’s latest wage offer – 1.5 percent for 2002-03, and a total commitment of 2 percent for 2001-02 – treats clerical employees the same as other UC staff,” the press release stated.

C.U.E. said the union’s counterproposal asked for more than the offered 2 percent wage increase because top administrators received a 25 percent wage increase last year.

“They’ve got money for everything but the workers,” Chris Benoit, lead negotiator and clerical worker at UC Riverside said. “It’s a terrible mistake – another Enron situation where the top dogs take everything and leave just crumbs for the people who do the work.”