After over a year of bitter wage disputes and gridlocked negotiations, the UC and the America Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees have reached a tentative agreement over the future contracts of more than 8,500 UC service workers.
The new five-year contract is set to provide more than $64 million in total wage increases for UC service workers throughout 2013. According to the UC Office of the President, the average hourly wage for a UC service worker will increase from $14.35 to $18.39 over the next five years.
With the agreement in place, AFSCME must now present the contract to its employees. The union is set to vote by late next week, and to reach a verdict no later than Feb. 12.
Nicole Savickas, a representative from the UC Office of the President, said she believes the agreement serves the interests of both parties.
“I think the contract was a matter of compromise, but again we are really happy to provide wage increases for our employees.” Savickas said.
The tentative agreement is the culmination of more than a year of fierce debates between the two parties that spilled over into the UCSB community in the form of strikes, protests and demonstrations. The proposed wage increase marks a victory for AFSCME, which continually characterized current UC service workers’ wages as substandard.
According to Bob Pinto, an AFSCME representative who helped negotiate the contract, the union had hoped for a more substantial wage increase but was satisfied with the agreement nonetheless.
“It seems like everybody is quite happy.” Pinto said. “It’s not what we were hoping to get, by far, but we are willing to accept it, and we’re pretty sure that membership will ratify it.”
The contract will also continue to provide health benefits as well as a retirement plan for UC service workers.
Despite the union negotiator’s overall positive reaction to the tentative agreement, Pinto said there were additional issues – such as overtime compensation after daily shifts – that were not addressed by the contract. Currently, UC service workers only receive overtime after the completion of their 40 hour weekly requirement.
According to Pinto, although California law mandates compensation for overtime after daily shifts, the UC is not currently required to abide by this law.
“We wanted overtime after shift, which we don’t have,” Pinto said. “But we will get it the last year of the contract. The way it is now you have to work over 40 hours to get overtime, which makes abuses possible. California has a law that you do get paid after shift. But the university is exempt from that and they can abuse workers with that technicality.”
However, Savickas denied this claim. She said the UC was not exempt from any California law and current UC policy is lawful. She said that beginning in 2012, UC service workers would receive overtime after a daily shift.