September 18, 2004

Local 743 still in contract negotiations

Contract negotiations between the University and the construction group Local 743, begun last March, have still not been settled.

The 1,100 clerical and service/maintenance employees belonging to Local 743, a member of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, have been working for the University since the 1970s. They finished their four-year contract last March, and have since been at the discussion table with the University to sign another contract. A worker, speaking under condition of anonymity, revealed that the University has decreased the amount of money it is willing to pay the workers, and has yet to compensate by offering any additional benefits.

The worker, a union steward, allowed that "things have changed for everyone in the last four years," but sees no reason for the University to cut wages, though he suspects that it is attempting to bring in outside workers with higher rates of pay. He remains pessimistic about the outcome of the ongoing negotiations.

"You get an increase in wages, they take it out of your benefits," he said. "Only this time, they are trying to take it out of both." The last project in which Local 743 was involved was the new University Hospital additions.

Sandra Bateman, the director of employee and labor relations for the University, declined to provide much detail on the contract proceedings.

"It is not our practice to talk ahead of time about what we are offering," said Bateman. "We are hoping to conclude the talks within three or four more meetings."

Bateman indicated that summer-scheduling has likely retarded the progress of the negotiations, as the two sides have not been able to meet as often as during the academic year.

"There is a whole lot of respect going on with our workforce; the University is not trying in any way to diminish the importance of its employees," said Bateman. "[Local 743] is a very important component of the University's total work force," she affirmed.

Her superior, Chris Keeley, associate vice president of University human resources management, could not be reached by the time this article went to press.