Printing Services votes down contract

Contract negotiations follow a University-proposed pension plan that Printing Services employees call unaffordable.

Jim Nielson mans a printing press in the Printing Service building on Monday. The printers union is currently in negation with the University over a new pension plan.

Jim Nielson mans a printing press in the Printing Service building on Monday. The printers union is currently in negation with the University over a new pension plan.

Kaitlyn Walsh

University of Minnesota Printing Services employees and union representatives have been negotiating with the University to settle on a new contract after the school offered them a pension plan employees call unaffordable.
The University proposed a contract last week that would put an additional 5 percent from Printing Services employeesâÄô gross salary toward pensions. The Printing Services union voted it down.
University Printing Services employee Jim Nielson  said the new plan would strain his wallet. He said money is already tight, and he has started taking the bus to cut expenses.
Nielson said that another 5 percent doesnâÄôt seem like a lot âÄî but for him, it is significant.
âÄú$200 out of my paycheck will hurt me,âÄù Nielson said. âÄúThat doesnâÄôt help me now when the price of gas, groceries and clothing is going up.âÄù
University representatives have met with employees and the union backing them âÄî Graphic Communications Conference of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters âÄî to work toward an agreement.
The University gave the union a final offer April 19, and it voted it down the next day, said Lori Ann Vicich, spokeswoman for the UniversityâÄôs Office of Human Resources. But she said the University is optimistic about negotiations.
âÄúThe biggest thing about negotiations is that we keep them at the negotiating table,âÄù said Vicich, who was unable to go into detail, but added, âÄúWe are hopeful.âÄù
Printing Services voted unanimously against the proposal. Employee Greg Roth  said he hopes this will reopen discussion.
âÄúIâÄôm always optimistic,âÄù Roth said. âÄúMy hope is that it sent a message to them that their proposal is not reasonable.âÄù
The main concerns were stipulations within the pension plan and the increased employee contribution, he said.
The new plan requires five years of service before employees become vested, or become eligible for pension benefits. Mike Blazek, a union representative involved with negotiations, said this means some of the employees retiring in the next few years would be hung out to dry.
The new pension plan, called the Minnesota State Retirement System, would replace the previous one, the IAM National Pension Plan, which is struggling financially, Blazek said.
The University was disappointed that the union voted down the offer, Vicich said, but plans to find another solution in the near future.
âÄú[We] now need to take a step back and think about whatâÄôs next,âÄù Vicich said.
University Printing Services has been out-of-contract with the union since 2004, Roth said, and approached the union last year to start renegotiating. The union represents nine Printing Services employees at the University.