Despite the ongoing stalemate between the University of California and UC union members over wages, officials hope a newly proposed contract may thaw the frozen bargaining process.

According to the UC Human Resources Dept., UC executives announced their latest bid last Friday to the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees – the union which represents UC workers. The offer includes a transition from a merit based salary increase system to the union’s preferred step-based system, in which workers’ salaries would increase based on the length of employment at the UC.

This newest proposal by the UC would also increase the minimum wage for UC service workers over the next three years from $10.28 to $13.25 an hour, amounting to at least $20.3 million total in wage increases.

While this latest proposal meets AFSCME’ demands for a step-based salary system, the union – and the 20,000 UC union workers concerned – continues to refuse the offer on grounds that the wage increase fails to support adequate living standards.

Although officials from the UC and AFSCME have disagreed in previous negotiations over minimum wage levels and pay increase regulations, UC spokesperson Paul Schwartz said UC negotiators are starting to point the finger at the union for dragging out the bargaining process.

“We continue to do what we can on our side of the negotiations to try to resolve remaining differences, but an agreement requires compromise from both sides.” Schwartz said. “We believe our proposals are fair, especially in light of the current state budget crisis, and we remain hopeful that an agreement is near.”

According to Schwartz, the current budget stalemate in Sacramento has prevented UC officials from ascertaining exactly how much funding will be allocated by legislators.

“We are doing what we can given the current fiscal condition,” Schwartz said.

However, AFSCME President Lakesha Harrison said the UC is using the budget as a crutch and has the power to restructure their financial allocation system.

“The budget impasse has helped solidify the UC’s position,” Harrison said. “When they’re ready to move, they’ll find the money. There’s a lot of stuff they can reallocate.”

Bargaining has been ongoing since last October, but reached an impasse in May that resulted in AFSCME members voting to strike. Consequently, 8,500 UC workers walked out on their jobs for four days in mid July despite a restraining order filed by the UC in the California Supreme Court.

AFSCME and UC negotiators returned to the bargaining table once more at the end of July, but remained unable to reach a compromise.

Presently, negotiations will proceed between the two groups until a mutually acceptable agreement is reached.