UI offers contract to union

From News-Gazette.com – October 25, 2006

Published Online Oct 7, 2006

By Christine Des Garennes

After more than a year of negotiations, the University of Illinois has offered a contract to members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 698.

The union, which represents about 400 UI employees from laboratory assistants to librarian technicians, will meet later this month to vote on the contract proposal.

The proposal calls for a 2.5 percent raise for the first year of the contract, including back pay to Aug. 28, 2005, the day after the last contract expired; a 2.5 percent raise effective Oct. 8, 2006; and a 2.5 percent raise effective effective Dec. 2, 2007, or a raise in the amount of the UI’s campus wage program, whichever is higher.

The proposal comes after several months during which the union held numerous rallies and pickets on campus. The two sides entered mediation this summer after reaching a standstill.

The UI’s current offer is “much better” than what the university proposed in May, said Local 698 Vice President Margaret Lewis.

The May offer proposed a raise of 1.5 percent below the amount of the campus wage program, meaning if the across-the-board campus wage raise is 3 percent, AFSCME 698 members would get a 1.5 percent increase.

Union members strongly rejected that offer.

“We felt like we had won a significant victory over the course of summer,” Lewis said. “But we’re still unhappy about the fact that the raise still lags behind inflation and that there was the offsetting of the second and third year.”

Members had wanted a 3 percent raise, which the UI “just doesn’t have resources for,” according to university spokeswoman Robin Kaler.

“We’re doing the very best we can within the resources we have available. We absolutely appreciate and understand the hard work the folks in this union provide and we are trying to do everything we can to make sure they are compensated accordingly,” Kaler said.

The last raise AFSCME 698 members received was in late August 2004 for about 2.25 percent.

The UI’s proposal also calls for boosting the pay of some positions to bring salaries in line with the pay of similar jobs in the Champaign-Urbana area.

AFSCME had requested equity pay adjustments for theatrical stitchers who work at Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, radiographers, auto parts managers, telephone operators and crash rescue specialists at Willard Airport.

According to the proposal, the auto parts manager and radiographer number 2 would receive 6 percent raises. The theatrical stitchers would receive 6 percent to 10.7 percent adjustments.

“Those are the ones we felt warranted equity increases,” Kaler said.

The UI did not propose raising the salaries of crash rescue specialists or telephone operators.

“We’re happy to have an offer in hand for the stitchers, but we’re not happy there’s nothing there for the crash rescuers and telephone operators,” Lewis said.

The two sides most recently met with the mediator on Tuesday. After receiving the UI’s offer, members of the union’s executive board met Thursday to discuss the proposal. That’s when they decided to let members take a closer look at the offer and then vote on it.

Union members will meet from 4 to 9 p.m. Oct. 25, at the Urbana Civic Center to vote.