UConn, union heading back into negotiations

The Storrs campus of the University of Connecticut

CTMirror.org file photo

The Storrs campus of the University of Connecticut

The union that represents non-teaching professional staff at the University of Connecticut will head back into negotiations with university officials to try to come up with a contract that won’t cause state lawmakers to balk, union officials announced Thursday.

The union recently withdrew a previous agreement with the university after legislatative leaders indicated they would vote to reject it because of its steep price tag. The five-year contract provided pay raises of between 3 and 4.5 percent annually in return for increasing the work week from 35 to 40 hours. The contract was expected to cost an additional $94 million over the five years.

Seventy-eight percent of the members of the University of Connecticut Professional Employees Association voted in favor of going back to the bargaining table this week.

“This is a democratic decision made by our members. Our priorities heading back to the collective bargaining process remain to do what is right for our members, the university we care about and our students. We will continue to work and ensure that our voice is heard in Hartford to support the collective bargaining process, which was so egregiously disrespected by the governor and the General Assembly,” said Kathleen Sanner, UCPEA president.

UConn President Susan Herbst in an email to university employees defended the contract that was presented to the legislature to consider.

“Unfortunately, some of the discussion about the contract over the last few weeks included statements that were not fair or factual regarding the negotiation process, the contract’s provisions, and the potential effect the contract would have on the university. Here are the facts…” she wrote.

“The university determined it could fund the cost of the final contract within our anticipated operating budget and through efficiency gains, which was a key consideration for us during the negotiations. We would not have negotiated a contract that necessitated significant layoffs or required tuition increases to pay for it, and we would not have signed a contract that our budget could not support, nor would the Board of Trustees have approved it,” Herbst said.

“We can only control those things that are within our control. Our shared job is to run this university as well as it can be run, offer the highest quality education to our students, and fulfill our mission of providing exceptional teaching, research and public service.”

Leaders of the Senate Democrats were pleased with the vote.

“The hard-working members of UCPEA showed great responsibility today in voting to send union leadership back to the bargaining table,” said Senate President Pro Tem Martin Looney and Majority Leader Bob Duff in a joint statement. “Connecticut’s budget reality has changed since the former contract was negotiated. We are hopeful that UConn and UCPEA will reach an agreement that is fair to workers, fair to taxpayers and sustainable for years to come.”

About Jacqueline Rabe Thomas

Jacqueline won two first prizes from the national Education Writers Association for her work in 2012 – one in beat reporting for her overall education coverage, and the other in investigative reporting on a series of stories revealing questionable monetary and personnel actions taken by the Board of Regents for Higher Education. In 2016, she was a finalist in the EWA competition for single-topic coverage for her reporting on how schools are funded in Connecticut. Before coming to The Mirror, Jacqueline was a reporter, online editor and website developer for The Washington Post Co.’s Maryland newspaper chains. She has also worked for Congressional Quarterly and the Toledo Free Press. Jacqueline received an undergraduate degree in journalism from Bowling Green State University and a master’s in public policy from Trinity College. She and her husband, son and two dogs live in Hartford.