The UC Office of the President reached an agreement with the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees union that will raise salaries and expand benefits for 20,000 of the organization’s employees.

The contract provides a 3 percent wage increase for UC service workers and patient care staff for 2011-2012 as well as a retroactive increase for 2010-2011 at the same rate. The university system additionally agreed to cover 87 percent of health insurance costs and expand its pension contributions from 4 to 10 percent by July 2012.

The ratification follows the University’s attempt to heighten employee contributions to benefits last year, prompting AFSCME protests.

AFSCME Member Organizer Edward Woolfolk, who has worked on the building maintenance staff at UCSB for 38 years, said the agreement represents a significant victory for UC workers’ rights.

“What we’ve won is really great for our members,” Woolfolk said. “Over the past few decades, cost of living has gone up so much, but wages have hardly gone up at all to reflect that.”

The contract also sets the current minimum salary for service employees at $13.70 per hour and increases it to $14.42 on Oct. 1, 2012, though the change will not take effect until November. Woolfolk said this promotes greater income equality UC-wide, mirroring economic concerns on the national level.

“If you look at what’s happening around the country now, people are standing up and saying, ‘Look, we’re not making it,’” Woolfolk said. “The executives in the UC are making bonuses while workers’ wages have hardly gone up at all. For us not to have this would have been our workers [being] a burden to a society that is already struggling.”

UCOP Media Specialist Dianne Klein said the latest contract seeks to repair points of contention raised between the university and workers in previous negotiations.

“This was what we call a re-opener, so there were certain issues that the union and the University wanted to take another look at,” Klein said. “I think that the good news is that an agreement has been reached — we think it’s fair and so do they.”

AFSCME Executive Vice President Julian Posadas said future dealings between AFSCME — the largest group of organized UC employees — and the University will continue to gradually improve.

“Our relationship has been getting better and I think the reopening of our contract and this agreement reflects that a lot,” Posadas said. “As UC workers, it is always in our best interest to work with the university, but it hasn’t always been that way. But our intentions are to better the relationship and work together in the future.”