Demanding that the University of California supply more competitive wages, UCSB service workers representing over 500 employees rallied on campus yesterday following their union’s rejection of the University’s latest offer.

As part of a UC-wide protest, approximately 30 workers from the local chapter of the American Federation of State Country and Municipal Employees union picketed at UCSB’s East Gate. The UCSB service workers also gathered on the corner of El Colegio Road and Stadium Road, with local motorists sounding their car horns in support as they passed.

On Wednesday, AFSCME rejected the UC’s contract proposal, which included a $2.8 million increase in wages in exchange for a contract extension. The union claimed the proposal was insufficient because the wages offered were still lower than at other campuses and did not account for cost of living rates. The current proceedings involve 7,000 service employees UC systemwide.

The UC has bargained with AFSCME since Oct. 2007, and as of today, the group’s most recent contract has expired. AFSCME has now filed a request for impasse with the Public Employment Relations Board. The UC will provide a response next week.

Local AFSCME organizer Julian Posadas said UCSB’s 505 service workers are now without a working fiscal agreement with the University. The union alleges that UC service workers are being paid 13 to 30 percent below current market rates for employees in the state of California.

Vice Chancellor for Administrative Services Donna Carpenter said the union’s rejection of the proposal will complicate payment schedules.

“I was disappointed about the decision [made by AFSCME] to reject the University’s offer, because I wanted to ensure the money gets to our employees,” Carpenter said. “We do lag the market with many of these service titles, and the offer proposed was based on a study done on market prices for workers at community colleges, local city schools and Cal State Universities.”

Posadas said he hoped UCSB would become more responsible with respect to employees wages within the near future.

“It’s embarrassing for the UCs to carry out business like this,” Posadas said. “They aren’t taking care of workers, and it’s obvious all over campus … The main point here is that the University has a great opportunity to set an example when they are the biggest employers in the county … This is not just a workers’ struggle, it’s a community struggle, and [the University] can really make a difference with their decision.”

Bob Pinto, a UCSB service worker and member of the AFSCME bargain team, said the union refused the recent offer by the University because it does not equate to the wages of other local, state-funded service workers.

“We’ve been bargaining for over five months now and have only received minimal increases,” Pinto said. “We are asking for a 26 percent [increase] in wages over the next three years, because we are [that far] behind other local public sector intuitions in our wages.”