Six months after receiving unexpected termination notices, campus clerical workers got more welcome news in the form of a settlement providing them with greater job security and benefits.
The Dec. 23 settlement between the University of California and the Coalition of University Employees brought resolution to an unfair labor charge filed by C.U.E. in June 2002, following the termination of 1,200 employees classified as temporary. The agreement includes several provisions to ensure that temporary employees working permanent positions will be converted to career status.
In January 2001, C.U.E. and the University signed an agreement stating that any temporary employee who worked a position for more than 18 months would automatically be reclassified as a career employee. After the 18 months passed, many workers expecting to be converted instead received letters informing them of their termination.
“They were firing people then rehiring them a day later,” C.U.E. Alternate Bargainer Sylvia Rodriguez said. “That way they were still classified as temps, which prevented them from receiving certain benefits.”
The union, which represents 18,000 clerical employees, immediately filed an unfair labor practice charge with the Public Employment Relations Board, which placed a moratorium on all firings until a settlement could be reached.
The agreement gives C.U.E. the power to now file grievances with the University in cases where they feel an employee has been incorrectly classified.
“There are only certain situations where temporary employees can be used,” C.U.E. Chief Negotiator Margy Wilkinson said. “To replace someone on leave, to fill a vacancy while a permanent replacement is found and for short-term special projects. If someone is working a job that doesn’t fit these criteria, they should be classified as career employees.”
Independent arbiters will review the individual grievances and require the University to reclassify qualified employees.
“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 said.
Career employees receive career and pension benefits unavailable to temporary employees, but Wilkinson said the appeal of career status goes far beyond that.
“There were people who were working very hard but felt like second-class citizens,” she said. “We’re extremely happy with the settlement because we felt like the University was misusing people.”
The settlement brings resolution to one of several unfair labor charges filed by C.U.E., which has been in ongoing contract negotiations with the University for over a year.