Union reaches tentative agreement, averts strike

Teamsters Local 320 could still strike if members do not vote to accept Friday’s agreement.

University workers will not strike for at least a week following a tentative agreement between the University and one of its largest unions.

Teamsters Local 320, which represents 1,300 University employees including custodial, maintenance, food and postal service workers, has been in negotiations since spring over proposed wage freezes, health-care cost increases and benefits reductions.

A state mediator offered a proposal to the union and the University late Friday night to break up a stalemate, Sue Mauren, leader of Teamsters Local 320, said in a prepared statement.

While the union committee did not feel the proposal addressed all of its members’ needs, it did resolve a number of issues that led to the strike vote, Mauren said.

The union will share the proposal with its members, who will vote whether to accept it. If it is rejected, the union will still have the option to strike. Mauren said union members will not vote on the proposal for at least a week.

University and teamster officials declined to provide details about the proposal. Mauren said she would like to give members an opportunity to look at it first.

University officials said they are grateful an agreement was reached.

“We’re hopeful members will agree to this,” said Patti Dion, director of the University’s Office of Human Resources.

Members of Teamsters Local 320 voted to strike Aug. 19 and could have begun striking Saturday at noon if Friday’s negotiations reached an impasse.

“These were very tough negotiations,” University President Bob Bruininks said in a written statement released Saturday. “But this is a fair and equitable agreement that will preserve jobs in this very difficult economy.”

Teamsters Local 320 is one of four unions currently in negotiations with the University.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Locals 3800, 3937 and 3260, which represent more than 3,000 University clerical, technical and medical employees, have been in negotiations throughout the summer over the same issues.

“The teamsters’ fight is our fight,”AFSCME Local 3800 President Phyllis Walker said. She said Sunday she had not seen the teamsters’ proposal, and that their agreement does not mean AFSCME members will not strike.

“Unless teamsters were able to beat back concessions in health insurance, we would not be able to accept the proposal,” she said.

On Thursday, Walker and

AFSCME Local 3937 President Jody Ebert delivered more than 3,000 postcards – signed by University faculty, staff, students and others who believe the proposed health care cuts are unfair – to University Vice President and Chief of Staff Kathryn Brown.

Bruininks, who received the postcards later in the week, said in an interview Friday he was pleased to receive them and that he plans to review them. Bruininks said he remains optimistic that the University can work out budget issues with its employees.

“The proposals we have here in front of people do require pain,” Bruininks said. “I’m not happy about it.”

He said every dollar spent outside the proposed budget would put someone’s job at risk. The University has reduced its staff by nearly 500 employees since January.

The AFSCME unions return to the bargaining table Tuesday. Union members also plan to rally on Northrop Mall on Tuesday to raise awareness of their issues.