Union, U set more talks

Two state mediators hope the impending Oct. 21 strike date pressures the two sides to settle.

Jessica Weaver

Union leaders and University officials will meet Sunday and Monday for mediation of their contract dispute.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3800, the union of 1,800 full-time University clerical workers, is the only remaining University employee union without at least a tentative contract agreement.

Mediators typically wait until close to a strike date to hold mediation, so there is more pressure on both sides to come to an agreement, said John Kuderka of the state Bureau of Mediation Services.

“We’re setting up the pressure of the deadline,” Kuderka said.

Two mediators in the state Bureau of Mediation Services are working with AFSCME Local 3800 and the University, Kuderka said.

A University official said she hopes the two sides can come to an agreement before the union’s Oct. 21 strike date.

“We have always wanted to reach an agreement. A mediator will bring the two parties back to the table, and we will hopefully arrive at a mutually agreeable outcome,” said Carol Carrier, University vice president for human resources.

AFSCME Local 3800 President Phyllis Walker said her union and the University have been in mediation throughout the contract negotiations. The last time the two parties met was at the end of August, Walker said.

“It’s up to (the University) to offer us something that our members will accept,” Walker said. “If the University wants to avert a strike, they have to make a different proposal.”

There is no guarantee mediation will resolve the labor dispute. The union chose the Oct. 21 strike date because it is the second day of a pay period, so workers choosing to strike will have health insurance for two weeks, Walker said.

Carrier sent an e-mail to union members Friday explaining the consequences for union members who choose to strike. Employees will not receive regular pay, vacation, sick leave or holiday pay while on strike, according to the e-mail.

The e-mail also outlined restrictions on employee picketing, which include interfering with people entering or leaving University property, blocking public streets and seizing or occupying University property.

Members of AFSCME Local 3800 are currently in a 10-day cooling-off period required by state law after filing intent to strike. AFSCME Local 3800 members filed an intent to strike notice with the Bureau of Mediation Services last Thursday.

After the 10-day cooling-off period comes a 20-day period during which a strike could occur, said University law professor Stephen Befort.

Mediation is required only if a request is filed, though mediation must occur at some point during labor negotiations, Befort said.

“The role of the mediator is to try and work with the parties and explore the possibility of a voluntary resolution,” Befort said.