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June 26, 2003

Pitt and SEIU representatives reached a tentative agreement on a new contract

Last week, University negotiators and union representatives reached a tentative agreement on a new contract for Pitt’s 400 service employees.

SEIU members were voting on the proposal yesterday, June 25, as the University Times went to press.

The service workers, which include cleaners, movers, groundskeepers and pool operators, are members of Local 585, Division 29 of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) AFL-CIO. They have been working on monthly contract extensions since their last contract expired Dec. 31, 2002.

According to documents provided to union members, Pitt is offering a three-year contract with wage increases of 3.5 percent (retroactive to Jan. 1, 2003); 2.5 percent beginning in January 2004, and 3 percent for the year 2005.

Pitt’s original offer was for a 1.5 percent wage increase for each of the three years, the documents stated.

By ratifying the contract, union members would agree to sign up for one of the options offered to all Pitt employees under the new UPMC Health Plan agreement (or opt out by proving they have alternative coverage). The UPMC Health Plan agreement, which goes into effect July 1, is for one year.

During the last few months, union members held rallies protesting the high increases in health insurance costs. Union officials complained that their members’ most popular health care choice — family coverage — was rising by 74 percent.

Earlier this month, the union filed for an injunction in Common Pleas Court to stop the July 1 implementation of the new UPMC Health Plan options while contract negotiations were ongoing.

According to press materials issued by the union at the time of the court filing, the Pitt service workers expected to argue that the health plan options were too costly and that implementation of the health plan “will cause [the workers] irreparable harm, will violate state labor law and will damage the public interest.”

The case was scheduled to be heard by Judge Paul Lutty June 24, but that hearing was postponed pending yesterday’s vote on the new contract proposal.

Also under the tentative agreement, new Pitt service workers will reach 100 percent of the base wage for their workgroup classification at a faster rate. Under the previous contract, new hires were paid 70 percent of the base wage during their six-month probationary period, and 80 percent for months 6 – 12. They then earned 90 percent of the base wage from 12 months to 2 years.

Under the tentative agreement, new SEIU employees will start at 80 percent, go to 90 percent at 6 months and 100 percent of base wages after 1 year of employment.

The new fee schedule, if approved, calls for hourly wages in 2003 ranging from $12.37 to $15.90. Retroactive, lump sum pre-tax payments covering January – June 2003 would range from $424.94 to $546.20.

—Peter Hart

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