After over a year of gridlocked wage negotiations, the university and American Federation of State, Municipal and County Employees have finally agreed on a new labor contract for service workers.

In January, AFSCME and University of California administrators reached a tentative agreement to provide more than $64 million dollars in incremental wage increases for the 8,500 service workers employed by the university. Last Friday, the union conducted a system-wide vote with 98 percent of service workers choosing to officially ratify the five-year contract.

According to Lakesha Harrison, president of local AFSCME chapter 3299, the new contract marks a successful end to a drawn out struggle for a living wage.

“This is a good place to move our workers out of poverty,” Harrison said. “We’ve been fighting for so long. … We’ve made some great gains in this contract.”

The University estimates that the minimum wage of UC service workers will increase from the current rate of $10.28 to $14.00 per hour, while the average hourly wage is expected to climb from $14.35 to $18.39 over the duration of the contract. The salary adjustments took immediate effect following the union vote and will impact over 400 service workers employed on the UCSB campus.

In a press release, Lt. Governor of California and UC Regent John Garamendi said he was satisfied with the final terms of the agreement.

“This is a good settlement,” Garamendi said. “It will give some of the lowest paid workers at the greatest university system in the world enough of a salary to meet the minimum needs of their families.”

The relationship between AFSCME and the UC has been strained at best over the past year and a half. As a result of the gridlocked negotiations, the last 18 months have been marked by repeated demonstrations by union supporters from across the UC. Protests culminated last month when approximately 60 UC service workers occupied the office of Richard Blum, Chairman to the UC Regents.

Meanwhile, despite the optimism over the new contract, Harrison said the rocky relations, which characterized the last year and a half of negotiations, will persist unless service workers remain a main concern.

“[AFSCME’s cooperation with the UC] depends on the university making sure that these workers stay a priority,” Harrison said. “The biggest struggle was with the university. It wasn’t about the budget or the money … it was about the workers. I hope we proved to them that these workers are a priority before they look at their six figure salaries, buildings and mansions.”