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Public universities’ classified staff move toward strike

August 22, 2019

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — The bargaining team representing thousands of classified staff at Oregon’s seven public universities has declared an impasse in contract negotiations.

Declaring an impasse means both the union and management have until Friday to submit a final contract offers, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported . After that, there’s a 30-day cooling off period during which negotiations are scheduled to continue and workers can give notice of a strike.

SEIU 503 represents staff including library technicians, office workers and custodial staff.

Members of the SEIU 503 bargaining team say the universities aren’t offering a fair contract and cite concerns over salary increases, proposals related to layoffs and workplace bullying.

“What I’m looking at right now are proposals I can’t live with,” said Darrow Omar, SEIU member organizer and office coordinator for Portland State University’s women, sexuality and gender studies department.

As part of negotiations, the union is asking for a 3.5% cost of living adjustment for 2020 while the universities propose a 1.25% cost of living increase.

Oregon Public Universities spokesperson Di Saunders said the universities’ proposed compensation also includes step increases which about 70% of the employees receive.

The universities are proposing a 2.5% cost of living adjustment plus the step raises which total about a 12% increase overall in the next two years, she said. The union is seeking to add a step at the top of the range so the 30% of employees who have reached the previous top step would also receive a step raise during the next contract period.

“In providing wage increases to any group of employees, it is important that the universities weigh the impacts that may directly affect our primary stakeholders: students, Saunders said. “With tuition being the primary revenue source for the universities, any wage increases must be balanced against impacts on low- and moderate-income students and families in Oregon, while also recognizing the high value that classified staff provide to the universities and our respect for their contributions.”

SEIU 503 members last went on strike in the mid-1990s.

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