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April 13, 2006

Pitt, SEIU agree to five-year pact

Pitt and its service worker employees have agreed to a five-year contract that features a new training fund to be paid for by the University.

The 350 custodians, mechanics, groundskeepers and maintenance workers at Pitt are members of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 3.

They had been working on monthly contract extensions since Dec. 31 when the last contract expired.

Workers will receive raises in each of the next five years, said Tom Hoffman, communications director for SEIU local 3. “The vast majority of our workers now earn in the $13 an hour range. By the last year of the contract, they will be earning about $15 an hour.”

To be eligible for the new training monies, SEIU employees must complete a core curriculum of classes designed for building services workers. “But following that, a worker can get training at no expense in HVAC, as an electrician, in plumbing and even locksmithing,” Hoffman said. “So a worker could start as a part-time janitor and work up to be a licensed plumber.”

Gabe Morgan, vice president of SEIU Local 3, added, “Not only is this agreement in keeping with the local’s goals of making service sector jobs support families, the training fund now gives our members a way to work toward careers in higher paying jobs in the property service industry.”

Morgan added that the contract negotiations reflected a new spirit of cooperation between the union and the University, noting that SEIU members had joined the University’s lobbying efforts in Harrisburg to promote increased commonwealth appropriations and to hold down health care costs.

Like other Pitt employees, union members agreed to participate in the UPMC Health Plan options (or opt out by proving they have alternative coverage).

The SEIU Local 3 members approved the new deal on March 31 by a 3:1 margin, according to Tom Hoffman. The contract provisions are retroactive to Jan. 1.

John Greeno, assistant vice chancellor for employee/labor relations and Pitt’s chief negotiator, did not return phone calls from the University Times.

—Peter Hart

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