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Update on Contract Negotiations Between University and Service Workers Union

November 6, 2012 | 0 Comments

For the past several months, the University has been actively engaged in negotiations with the Service Employees International Union/1199 and Local 200 with regard to a renewed contract for its union workers.

SEIU/1199 and Local 200 represents 315 food services and facilities employees on the University’s River Campus and 1,294 housekeepers, patient care technicians, food service workers, patient unit secretaries and others at the Medical Center.

The University and SEIU have reached consensus on the non-compensation aspects of a renewed contract, but have yet to reach agreement on the economic aspects—pay, health insurance, time off, and outsourcing.

As in any dynamic negotiation, positions evolve throughout the process. Since the negotiations began in August, the University has demonstrated its willingness to compromise while honoring its negotiation principles and objectives, chiefly the resolution of a fair and equitable contract that establishes parity with the University’s non-union employees with regard to health care, wages, leave time, and other compensation components.

Despite that progress, SEIU recently sought and received authorization from its members for a job action, possibly a strike. (Any strike that involves health care employees would require 10-days’ advance notice to ensure uninterrupted patient care; no such advanced notice is required on the River or Eastman School campuses if no contract is in effect). Fortunately, both sides met on Nov. 1 and agreed to extend the current contract until 11:59 p.m. on Nov. 17, and further discussions are scheduled for next week.

The University places a high value on its employees, who contribute so much to the operation and reputation of the University. As the region’s largest employer, it takes very seriously the responsibilities to maintain competitive compensation and preserve jobs in the midst of potential steep cuts to funding for health care and higher education and rising costs for health care.


The University’s negotiating position as of November 1

In the spirit of compromise, the University has dropped its proposal for union members to participate in the University’s employee health plans, instead agreeing to increase the University’s contribution to the union’s National Benefits Fund, which provides health care insurance to its employees.

However, as the cost of health care rises, it is no longer realistic for any employer to fully bear the cost of employee health coverage. In fact, it is impossible to find another SEIU contract with any Upstate New York health or higher education employer that offers premium-free coverage as the National Benefits Fund has provided up to this point through a University contribution. So, the University has also proposed that union employees—like their non-union counterparts—contribute toward the cost of their premiums.

To help offset this expense, the University boosted its proposed wage increase to 2%, the same increase provided to many non-union University employees.

The University has also suggested compromises on issues involving subcontracting and training and education, with proposals that make union members’ sick leave comparable to that of non-union workers. Representatives have additionally proposed to the union a significant improvement to long-term disability, which would extend premium-free coverage to all union employees, comparable to that which non-union employees enjoy.

The University believes that a resolution is near if both sides remain focused at the negotiating table.

To stay abreast of the talks, click here to view all public statements issued by the University since the start of the negotiations.

Category: For faculty and staff, For graduate students, For undergraduates

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