After several weeks of negotiations, the University of Rochester has reached agreement on a two-year contract with 1199 SEIU and Local 200 United, the bargaining unit that represents 1,200 service workers at the University's River Campus and at Strong Memorial Hospital. The contract, which union members ratified today, expires on September 29, 2007.
The agreement includes a 3 percent, across-the-board wage increase during each year of the contract, and increased contributions to health care benefits. It also eliminates a feature in previous contracts in which the University paid for cost overruns in the union employees' health benefits plan. The new contract preserves a two-tier pay scale put in place in negotiations earlier this year that slows pay increases for new hires as a way to encourage longevity.
"This contract represents a win for both sides," said Chuck Murphy, associate vice president for Human Resources and lead negotiator for the University. "The University was able to stay true to its principles of equity between the union and non-union employees, truthful and fair negotiations, and market-sensitivity."
The University of Rochester agreed to increase contributions to the National Benefits Fund that, in turn, provides health care benefits to union employees by 10 percent each year of the contract. That's an increase comparable to the community-wide rise in health insurance coverage, Murphy said. The agreement also includes a one-time payment of $100,000 to the Fund to help defray increases in co-payments and deductibles.
Union members have been working without a contract since the previous one expired on October 1. When contract talks began in late September, the University of Rochester put forth proposals calling for increases in both wages and contributions to benefits. Over the last several weeks, the union has staged picketing and threatened to poll its members for strike authorization, moves that sparked the University of Rochester and Strong Memorial Hospital to put in place detailed contingency staffing plans in the event of a strike. Tuesday's negotiations, which extended late into the night, made those plans unnecessary.