After months of negotiation and mediation, the University of California remains at a standstill with its custodial workers, refusing to accept disparate wage increases across the campuses that it deemed unfair.
The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union recently accepted a proposal by a state contract mediator that included a $1.75 per hour pay increase for custodial workers at UC Santa Barbara, UC Berkeley and UC Santa Cruz, while offering a $0.75 increase for workers at all remaining UCs. However, the University has already stated it would not accept such disproportionate increases, a May 2 UC Office of the President press release stated.
Contract mediator and former senator John Burton’s proposed pay increases at the 10 university campuses are based upon local market level wages. The current starting wage for a UCSB custodial worker is around $10.75 an hour, while the Santa Barbara Living Wage campaign website currently pins the area’s living wage at $13.40 an hour, including health insurance.
AFSCME Executive Vice President Julian Posadas said he found the UC’s failure to accept Sen. Burton’s proposal frustrating.
“Sen. Burton came in to mediate the argument but unfortunately the UC is not trying,” said Posadas, UCSB’s AFSCME organizer. “We have been accommodating the UC and it’s still not happening. There has not been movement and we have been at it for over a year and a half. This is a proposal for equality and justice that sadly the University won’t take seriously.”
In the press release, the University said it would not fund inequitable distributions to the three universities because the campuses currently receive above average market level salaries.
“One of the key obstacles to an agreement, and to implementation of raises for custodians and other AFSCME-represented employees, is the union’s refusal to distribute the raises equitably,” the press release stated. “UC cannot support the union’s distribution plan that disproportionately benefits custodians at three campuses at the expense of lower-paid employees at other locations.”
Associated Students Off-Campus Representative Jeronimo Saldana said the student body has been actively involved in the ongoing dispute, which he feels has yet to receive acknowledgement from the administration.
“We have been supporting AFSCME for years because we want a living wage on our campus,” Saldana said. “We went to the chancellor three times last year and twice this year. It has been incredibly unfair that the University hasn’t paid attention to our workers and that we have to [resort] to such measures as civil disobedience.”
Meanwhile, Vice Chancellor of Administrative Services Donna Carpenter, said the University has been actively negotiating with the unions to provide salary increases to the lowest paid employees and that offers have been made to AFSCME but an agreement has not been reached. In its previous proposal, the UC offered to distribute a $4.3 million increase for the nearly 3,000 custodial workers systemwide.