Two days before a strike was to begin at all seven public universities in Oregon, Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 503 announced tentative agreement on a new union contract. If ratified as expected, the deal would cover about 4,500 university support workers, including food preparation, grounds and building maintenance, custodial services, student registration and financial aid assistance, and tech support.
The two-year agreement includes an across-the-board 3% raise retroactive to July 1, 2019, and another 2.1% raise on July 1, 2020. It gives an additional 2.5% increase on Nov. 1 to workers with at least five years seniority who are at the top of the pay scale for their classification. And it eliminates the bottom step or two in a number of pay scales in order to keep all workers in the state above the Portland-area minimum wage, which is $12.50 now and will rise to $13.25 July 1, 2020.
The Oregon University System backed off a proposal to increase workers’ contribution to health care costs. It also dropped a proposal to charge low-paid UO food service workers more for their shift meals. And it agreed to allow for up to 48 hours of paid leave over the next to years to be used if campuses are shut down because of inclement weather.
Local 503 said in a statement that the 3% increase is the largest cost-of-living raise that university support workers have received in more than a decade.
The contract covers support staff at University of Oregon, Portland State University, Oregon State University, Eastern Oregon University, Southern Oregon University, Western Oregon University, and the Oregon Institute of Technology. Faculty are represented by other unions.
The new contract would run through June 30, 2021.