After nearly two years of negotiations, the University of California and one of its workers’ unions have finally reached an agreement on a labor contract.

The Coalition of University Employees released the results of its mail-in vote on a labor proposal put forth by state mediator Micki Callahan. The contract, approved by 1,557 of the total 2,388 voters, gives UC clerical workers a total wage increase of 2 percent for the period of September 2001 to September 2002 and eligible employees will receive a half-step merit increase. The contract also includes language clarifications concerning job security.

“I would say it’s a mixed victory. We got pretty much no movement on the wages at all,” said Monica Curry, vice president of the UCSB chapter of C.U.E. “It is a clear victory in the other language, very good language, about layoffs and some other protections of workers’ rights, [except for] the wages.”

In addition to the wage changes, clerical workers were also pleased with the changes made to the contract to improve workers’ safety, Curry said.

The new contract says the UC must provide – as opposed to make a reasonable effort to provide – a safe workplace, Curry said. Each department is responsible for funding purchases of ergonomic equipment, she said, as UC does not provide funds for such equipment.

“A lot of the times one of the most expensive component is the chair and a desk that is adjustable in height, so that the height of the keyboard can be raised or lowered,” Curry said.

A statement from the UC Office of the President said the UC is pleased with C.U.E.’s acceptance of the contract.

“Our clerical employees work very hard to help UC remain the premier public research university in the world, and we believe this agreement is a fair and balanced compromise considering the significant state funding constraints we’re experiencing,” Judith Boyette, UC associate vice president for human resources and benefits, said in the UC press release.

C.U.E. and the UC will meet soon to finalize the agreement, which will allow the UC to distribute raises to clerical employees. Negotiations will begin almost immediately for new labor contracts to fill the void when the current contract ends in September 2004.

C.U.E. representatives said they are not entirely satisfied with the contract, saying the UC has the ability to pay its clerical workers better wages but that people voted in favor of the contract because of improvements in other areas of negotiation.

“This vote does not mean that UC clericals are satisfied with the wage component – as was made clear by the large number of ‘no’ votes cast. People just want to sign off on this contract and take advantage of the other language gains that we’ve won through bargaining,” C.U.E. President Claudia Horning said.