(Update: Adding SEIU statement)
Bargaining teams from Oregon’s seven public universities and the union representing about 4,500 classified employees reached a tentative agreement early Saturday morning on a two-year labor contract, averting next week’s planned strike.
The settlement averted a strike action by the Service Employees International Union that would have started on Monday, the first day of classes for many of the universities, according to a statement issued by the schools.
The new contract covers about 4,500 classified staff members. Classified staff play important operational roles across most university academic and administrative departments, in positions with annual wages ranging from about $25,000 to more than $100,000.
Oregon’s Public University presidents released a statement saying, “As we welcome students back in the new academic year, we are pleased that we have a tentative agreement in place with our SEIU-represented classified workers, who play an important role in the education of more than 120,000 Oregon public university students. Our university classified employees are respected colleagues who are vital to the operation of our universities and the diverse student services each campus provides.
“We are deeply appreciative of the dedication these employees demonstrate every day in their jobs on our university campuses. Their work makes an enormous difference in the education and lives of our students, as well as the research and community services that Oregon universities provide throughout the state.”
The settlement statement was signed by President Tom Insko, Eastern Oregon University; President Nagi Naganathan, Oregon Institute of Technology; President Edward J. Ray, Oregon State University; Interim President Steven Percy, Portland State University; President Linda Schott, Southern Oregon University; President Michael Schill, University of Oregon; and President Rex Fuller, Western Oregon University.
In summary, the contract settlement included:
— 3.0% cost of living adjustment (COLA) for all classified employees effective July 1, 2019; and 2.10% COLA for all classified employees effective July 1, 2020 (total of 5.10% in raises over two years);
— Full step wage increases of 4.75% in each year of the next contract, representing a total of 9.5% over two years. This offer applies to more than 70 percent of classified employees not already at the top step of their classification;
— A longevity premium of 2.5% given yearly to classified employees who have been at the University at least five years and have been at the top of their salary range for at least a year from their salary eligibility date;
— A commitment to keep entry level-wages at all universities above Portland-metro area universities’ minimum wage by eliminating steps of the salary schedule that are below that rate;
— Moved 15 job classifications to higher salary ranges;
— Provided employees with 48 hours of paid time over the course of the 2-year agreement to be used in the event of campus closures and delayed openings due to inclement weather or hazardous conditions.
— Agreement to keep meal costs at current rates for dining service employees at the University of Oregon.
— All other benefits (health care, pension, holidays, vacations, sick leave, personal leave, bereavement, and others) remain as is in the current contract (2017-19) for the next contract.
SEIU members will vote to ratify the contract settlement during October, with implementation occurring in November.
News release from SEIU:
Oregon Higher Education Workers Settle New Contract
Contract marks important win for 4,500 front-line workers at public universities
WILSONVILLE – Oregon public university workers early Saturday morning reached a tentative agreement with university administrators on a new contract that covers wages, benefits, and other workplace policies. The agreement follows months of negotiations and worker actions, including a strike authorization, in pursuit of a fair contract.
“This is a win for the 4,500 workers who dedicate their lives to Oregon universities,” said Melissa Unger , executive director of SEIU Local 503. ” Workers stuck together to demand a contract that respects the critical role they play in supporting our students and keeping our campuses running. Together, we fought back take-aways proposed by management on wages, health care, steps, and personal days, and won higher wages for all workers. This hard-fought victory is a testament to the strength and solidarity of Oregon’s front-line university workers. ”
University employees provide services that include food preparation, grounds and building maintenance, custodial services, student registration and financial aid assistance, tech support, and other critical services that keep campuses running and facilitate student success.
The largest cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) in more than a decade, 3% retroactive to July 1, 2019 pending ratification and another 2.1% starting July 1, 2020.
No change in health care costs for workers, a significant improvement from the 10% increase originally proposed.
A 48-hour leave bank for workers over the 2-year contract to be used if campuses are shut down because of inclement weather.
University wages have been stagnant for years, and employee compensation has fallen behind the rising cost of living in Oregon. Despite record-high public funding to the university system, workers were originally presented with a contract that disrespected their critical role in supporting Oregon students and keeping campuses running. The tentative agreement reached Saturday marks a significant win for university workers at the University of Oregon, Portland State University, Oregon State University, Eastern Oregon University, Southern Oregon University, Western Oregon University, and the Oregon Institute of Technology. In the coming weeks, members will vote to ratify the contract.
“Classified workers are the backbone of Oregon’s universities,” said Rob Fullmer , bargaining team chair and IT specialist at Portland State University. ” This contract acknowledges the incredible value that university workers bring to our students and to our campuses. When Oregon’s public employees work together and make their voices heard, we have the power to move Oregon families forward and make our state a better place. “