University Reaches Contract Deal with SEIU/1199 and Local 200
Union Accepts Smaller Wage Increase to Avoid Sharing Health Care Premium Costs
November 29, 2012
After more than three months of negotiations, the University of Rochester has signed a two-year contract with the union that represents approximately 1,600 of its service workers. Talks will reopen next September on wages only; all agreements on benefits will remain effective until September 2014.
Progress came when SEIU/1199 and Local 200 negotiators agreed to accept wage increases lower than those provided to the University’s non-union employees in exchange for health care benefits that don’t require employees to contribute toward their premiums. Preserving union-sponsored health coverage at no cost to its members was a major sticking point in the negotiations for SEIU.
To reach a deal, the University agreed to boost its contribution to the union’s National Benefits Fund by approximately 11.4% over the two-year life of the contract. In return, the union agreed to increase co-pays for specialists and imaging scans to help offset the cost of the plans. SEIU negotiators also accepted a 1.5% wage increase (retroactive to September 23, 2012) in the contract’s first year – less than the 2 – 2.5% wage increases received by non-union employees throughout the University last year. Both sides agreed to reopen negotiations next fall to determine a wage increase for the contract’s second year.
“From the start, we approached these contract discussions from the standpoint of fairness for all of our employees,” said University Labor Relations manager Josh Lehman. “In assessing the total package, we agreed to allow the union the flexibility to apply dollars toward the components they most valued. They chose smaller wage increases in order to avoid the need to have members contribute toward their health care premiums.”
By delaying a commitment on second-year wage increases until next fall, the University hopes to gain clarity on major economic issues such as health care reform, the fiscal cliff, state and federal deficits and other factors that affect the University budget.
In other components of the contract, the University modestly raised its contributions to the union’s childcare and training funds and increased the hours available for employees to participate in educational activities, a move that reflects its commitment to professional growth. Changes in sick leave benefits align the union plan more closely with that of the non-union University staff.
“We are pleased with this contract, which is a fair agreement resulting from carefully considered compromises,” Lehman said. “Both sides were able to achieve their objectives.”
SEIU Local 200 United and 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East represent about 1,600 University employees, including housekeeping, food service, and materials handling staff, as well as surgical technicians and nursing unit secretaries. Contract discussions have been underway since August. The new contract expires September of 2014.