Union and U should make concessions

The University’s clerical union is right to strike, but its negotiators need to make concessions on the union’s health-care demands. The University should do likewise on step increases and seniority hiring priority.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Locals 3800, as well as 3260, are being asked to share the increased health-care costs with the 90 percent of University employees who will be covered under the U Plan. All but these two unions have accepted the new health-care rates. Although the U Plan will cost workers – and the University – more, employees are still getting a better deal than many workers in the private and public sector. The U Plan is even superior to the State Employee Group Insurance Plan – which state workers accepted – as explained in depth by Fred Morrison, chairman of the Benefits Advisory Committee, in his Oct. 16 opinion piece.

Until now, University workers did not pay any of the basic health-care plan premium, unlike most employees. The parents

of many students, and some students themselves, pay even higher premiums and co-pays than they did last year, when their co-pays were already usually higher than University workers’. Health-care costs are going up dramatically everywhere, and as such, is an issue that needs addressing. However, the problem is out of the University’s hands.

While we support the University on its health-care plan, we do not support its plan on step increases and seniority hiring priority.

We guess the University must be holding its position on these two items as a negotiating tactic. Possible University cost-savings on them would not be high enough to outweigh their large importance to the union members. Step increases and seniority hiring priority are less about money to the union than about respect and reward for continued service. Step increases might not even cost the University, because its incentive encourages workers to continue employment, which reduces turnover and retraining costs. Hiring priority for senior, qualified employees rewards past service, which improves employee morale and, therefore, performance.

We think our recommended concessions are fair, and for the benefit of all, we hope both sides can make necessary compromises.