After nearly two years of contractual difficulties, the University of California and the union of clerical employees will try once again to repair their relationship, this time with a mediator.
Negotiators for the Coalition of University Employees will meet with University negotiators in Berkeley on Tuesday for another round of bargaining. Recently appointed negotiations mediators from the State Mediation and Conciliation Services will be overseeing this meeting, raising hopes that a final resolution is near.
“I think its going to be different with the mediator present,” C.U.E. Chief Negotiator Margy Wilkinson said.
The mediators were appointed recently after the University’s request for a declaration of impasse was denied by the state’s Public Employment Relations Board (PERB). C.U.E. and the University have filed dozens of unfair bargaining practice complaints against each other in the last year, and C.U.E. has filed about 30 unfair labor practice complaints over the 20 months they have been working without a contract, local C.U.E. Field Representative Gabriel Cohn said.
PERB found the University guilty of an unfair labor practice in December for its refusal to promote qualified temporary employees to permanent, or “career,” status. The University has since pledged to promote all employees deemed qualified by independent arbiters.
“If an employee classified as temporary is working a position that is clearly permanent, that person will be converted to career status,” UC spokesman Paul Schwartz told the Daily Nexus Monday.
Career status employees are eligible for benefits, have more job security and are paid more than temporary employees.
The key issue in the ongoing negotiations is wage increases. C.U.E. hopes for wage increases large enough to meet the market average for university clerical workers – about 15 percent – in the new contract, while the University defends its position of 2 percent increases – 1 percent for 2001-02 and 1 percent for 2002-03 – citing limitations from state budget cuts.
“They have said consistently that they can’t give more than what California gave them,” Wilkinson said.
However, Rodriguez said she thinks they have more to give than they are letting on.
“Those budget cuts came after negotiations ever began,” she said. “We really do think that they are lying to us.”
Despite the seemingly grim future of these negotiations, Wilkinson said she looks forward to Tuesday’s meeting. “I am an eternally optimistic person. I have to be.”
University officials were unavailable for comment Wednesday and Thursday.