Three American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) labor unions agreed June 10 after negotiations with the University of Minnesota to forgo the accustomed 2 percent incremental wage increase in their 2009-11 contracts and adhere to the University’s wage freeze, among other things.
The unions represent nearly 3,000 clerical, technical and health workers from the University’s Twin Cities, Duluth, Morris and Crookston campuses.
Minnesota Teamsters Local 320 , which represents around 1,300 mechanics, service people and custodial workers, also came to a similar agreement with the University on June 11, but the details of the contract have not been released.
Along with forfeiting an annual 2 percent wage increase through 2011, the unions will not receive their annual cost of living adjustment bonus for 2009, which would have been awarded July 1. Union employees will receive that adjustment in 2010 .
Union officials are dissatisfied with the deal because the negotiated salary is not enough money to live on, said Phyllis Walker , president of AFSCME Local 3800, which represents nearly 2,000 University clerical workers.
“Every year, clerical workers’ salaries are worth less than they were the year before,” Walker said. “We still aren’t keeping up with inflation.”
The average worker’s salary is about $38,000 per year, Walker said, which is little more than $17 per hour.
The United States inflation rate was 3.8 percent in 2008, but a drop in energy prices beginning in November has brought the rate to -.2 percent in 2009, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The union contracts last two years, and the next contract is active July 1 through June 30, 2011. Approval by union members and the University Board of Regents is needed before that date.
The unions are expected to ratify the contract within the next few weeks, and the Board of Regents vote would come soon after.
Negotiations between the unions and the University took just four days — much shorter than the thorny dispute in 2007 that propelled the same unions to a 17-day strike on the University.
“The U put forward the shortest proposal I think we ever have before,” University negotiator Robert Altman told union members during negotiations May 26, according to text from the negotiation. “It’s in everyone’s best interest to get this settled … The government has left a lot of uncertainty from unallotments.”
Unions fed up with layoffs
Displeased with the amount of layoffs union employees have seen in 2009 — 50 since January — the AFSCME unions plan to speak at the Board of Regents public hearing Wednesday and demand the University begin laying off employees making more than $200,000.
The demand is based on a 2008 Minnesota statute which states “each agency with more than 50 full-time equivalent employees must reduce at least the same percentage of management and supervisory personnel as line and support personnel.”
“We are the people that the University needs more of, not less of,” Walker said. “We need fewer people who make over $200,000 per year, who sit in board rooms and who contribute in no way to the student experience.”
If the University decides to continue laying off union workers, clerical workers will “stand up for each other and demand that layoffs of our people be discontinued,” Walker said.
University spokesman Daniel Wolter declined to comment on the unions’ position and would not elaborate on a possible course of action by the Board of Regents, because the unions have not formally approached the University.
Teamsters Local 320 principle officer and treasurer Sue Mauren blames Gov. Tim Pawlenty for a large part of the University’s financial problems.
“He’s more interested in running for president than working people, the community and service,” Mauren said. “He’s doing a disservice to the University, the people that work there and the students that go to school there.”
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