The University of Connecticut has come to a tentative agreement with its largest labor union, guaranteeing its employees an average wage increase of at least 3.2 percent over each of the next five years.
In exchange, the 1,900 staff members belonging to the UConn Professional Employees Association will begin working a 40-hour week, up from the current 35-hour work week. The agreement covers admissions and financial aid officers, librarians and other non-teaching staff who currently earn between $40,000 a $150,000 a year.
“I think we can all agree in general that the public wants and expects UConn employees to work what the rest of privately employed workers work,” said UConn Spokeswoman Stephanie Reitz. “The vast majority of state employees are doing a 40-hour work week already.”
Older employees will also be offered a “phased retirement” under which they can cut their hours and workload over the three years leading to their retirement while keeping their full health and pension benefits.
The contract does not include a no-layoff provision, and cuts in half the separation payment UConn must make if it does let an employee go. Some employees are currently guaranteed their job and pay for 12 months after being notified they are being laid off.
The agreement – which already has been voted on and accepted by union members – is slated to be approved by UConn’s governing board Wednesday.
When voting to raise tuition by $3,275 by 2019 – a 6.7 percent annual increase over the next four years – UConn officials pointed to a $40.2 million deficit next year as the reason for the bump. That deficit equates to a 3 percent deficit if existing programs and staffing levels are continued.
UConn reports that the projection for next year’s shortfall assumes it will cost the system $14.1 million more to provide its employees health and pension benefits. Another $15.3 million is based on “union increases.”
It was not clear Monday whether this agreement will impact the university’s overall budget. The university has not reached an agreement with its other large union, which represents faculty. UConn officials announced Friday that they have begun meeting with a mediator and officials from the American Association of University Professors, which has 1,489 members.
Union President Kathleen Sanner said she is please with the new contract.
“This agreement will assist in continuing and expanding the collegial relationship we enjoy with the university administration,” she said. “Most importantly, it will help our members to better serve the students and faculty of our great university.”
Other provisions in the non-teaching staff contract include:
- On top of the 3.2 percent average annual wage increase over the next five years, employees will be eligible for merit raises and one-time bonuses of up to $5,000.
- Compensatory time is capped for employees whose hours are customarily irregular. Employees who are designated as essential will receive compensatory time when they are required to work during emergency closings.
- Employees who separate from UConn will now be paid for up to 60 days of unused vacation, up from the current 44 days.
- Daycare reimbursements, which come from union dues, will increase, and funding for the reimbursements will more than double to $100,000 per year. This pool of money provides employees with $450 to $600 a year to help out with child care expenses.