After over a year of working without a contract, the Coalition of University Employees will finally get the chance to vote on a contract.

The contract proposal, which was developed by a state mediator, includes a choice of two wage increases, which are both well below the 15 percent wage increase C.U.E. originally sought in negotiations. The contract also includes a variety of job security measures and language clarification. It covers the 2001-02 and 2002-03 fiscal years, and everything except parking and wages for the 2003-04 fiscal year. The University of California has already accepted the proposal.

C.U.E. members will vote on two ballot items: overall contract approval and which wage increase package they prefer. Both wage increase options will raise wages a total of 2.5 percent this year. C.U.E. originally asked for a 15 percent cost of living wage increase.

The first wage increase option includes a 1 percent cost of living wage increase with no step or merit increases for November 2001 through October 2002, a 1.5 percent cost of living wage increase for October 2002 through the end of this fiscal year, and no merit or step increases for those periods. Eligible C.U.E. members, those who worked for the UC during those periods, including people who have since retired, will receive retroactive payments which will be included, in spread out portions, in the paychecks of eligible employees beginning with the first pay period after the contract is approved.

The second wage increase option includes a 1 percent lump sum payment for November 2001 through Sept. 30, 2002, a 1 percent cost of living increase for October 2002 through the end of this fiscal period and a step/merit increase for eligible employees effective October 2002. Only employees who had worked for the UC for at least 6 months and received “satisfactory” or above rating on their evaluations for that period are eligible for the merit/step increases. Step increases will be between 4.3 percent and 4.8 percent of the employee’s wages and the merit increase will be around 2.5 percent.

Other contract changes include a clause allowing for future bargaining for parking, wages and one contract article from UC and C.U.E. for the 2003-04 fiscal year contract, which will begin May 1, 2003, the inclusion of Cesar Chavez Day as a holiday and more specific language concerning the order and seniority rights in the case of layoffs.

All current C.U.E. members should have already received a ballot package from the statewide C.U.E. office via mail. The ballot package should include one ballot, voting instructions, two envelopes, an explanation of consequences of each voting decision and pros and cons for each, a financial impact report for both wage options and a summary of the mediator’s report.

All statewide votes and most local votes are taken via mail-in ballots, Gabriel Cohn, C.U.E. local representative, said. Only the strike vote during Fall Quarter was not administered via mail. Only ballots received by April 30, 2003 – the deadline for acceptance or rejection of the contract – will be counted and the results will be released that day.

UC announced support for the proposed contract the same day it was released, April 1. If C.U.E. members also approve the contract, it will go into effect immediately and will include the most popular wage-increase proposal. If C.U.E. members reject the mediator’s proposed contract, C.U.E. and the UC will have to resume bargaining.