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October 9, 1997

Local 29 to vote on new contract Oct. 15

Negotiators for Pitt and the union that represents some 540 University custodians, grounds-keepers and food service workers have tentatively agreed on a new contract.

Members of Local 29 of the Service Employees International Union are scheduled to meet Oct. 15 to vote on the proposal. They have been working on a series of contract extensions since their last contract with Pitt expired Dec. 31, 1995.

According to a letter that Local 29 leaders mailed to union members, the proposed new contract would run through Dec. 31, 1999. Workers would get no wage increase for 1996; a 3 percent increase for 1997, retroactive to Jan. 1; and 2 percent raises for 1998 and 1999.

Local 29 leaders originally had sought a five-year agreement, retroactive to Jan. 1, 1996, with 3 percent wage increases for each contract year. Pitt had offered a three-year deal, retroactive to Jan. 1, 1997, with 2 percent raises for the first two years and the 1999 increase to be negotiated at a later date.

The union also had wanted workers to get medical benefits solely through the Pittsburgh Building Owners Welfare Fund, with Pitt paying the full cost of those benefits. Under the proposed contract, Pitt would agree to that condition through June 1998. But if the fund hikes its premiums in July 1998, workers would pay 15 percent of the increase. Likewise, if premiums rise in July 1999, union members would pick up 15 percent of that increase.

"The University has the option of providing health care through their own plan only if they can provide the exact same coverage to the employees, and only if it is at a lower cost to the members," the Local 29 letter stated.

The letter, dated Oct. 2, also said the proposed contract would protect Local 29 members' seniority rights, which union leaders said had been threatened by earlier Pitt proposals.

Pitt communications director Ken Service confirmed the proposed dates and percentage increases outlined in the Local 29 letter, but said the University administration will decline to comment on the proposal pending the union vote.

The Oct. 15 meeting is scheduled for 4 p.m. at Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall.

Local 29 business agent Nelson Bryant called the proposed contract "a fair one" but declined to predict how the vote will go.

— Bruce Steele

Filed under: Feature,Volume 30 Issue 4

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