Employees’ union salary negotiations at stand still

By Joe Bush

Negotiations between NIU, Board of Regents officials and American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees have stalled and no further talks have been scheduled.

The AFSCME, with a diverse range of NIU employees, wants its members whose salaries are below a statewide average to receive “catchup” increment raises.

The union has asked to speak at next week’s Regents’ meeting in Springfield, Marshall said. At the September Regents’ meeting held at NIU, a group of AFSCME members picketed in front of the Holmes Student Center and made a brief appearance at the meeting.

Regents Chancellor Roderick Groves said Wednesday he had not received the union’s request. The Board requires speaking requests 10 days before a meeting, but reserves the right to set aside any of its rules, he said. Regents Chairman Carol Burns said the request probably would not be granted because it comes amid negotiations.

AFSCME officials will meet today at NIU to discuss strategy. Marshall said no strike is planned.

Clouding the issue are two different calculations for that salary average—the union’s and NIU’s. The school’s figures are derived from a semi-annual statewide study of civil service workers at public universities.

The union’s figure is an average based on the minimum salary range for civil service workers. Mary Jo Marshall, chief negotiator for AFSCME Local 3389, said the union is not privy to the study because access is limited to personnel officers.

Negotiations have broken off twice, most recently on Nov. 21. One NIU official described the two sides’ numbers as “apples and oranges.”

The union, in the last year of a three-year agreement which gave them an 8.7 percent increase in 1989, claims NIU has given the increment raises to non-union workers.

For example, non-union clerks in Founders Memorial Library, after receiving a 16.1 percent raise, earn more than library technical assistants from AFSCME, Marshall said. The assistant position requires greater education and experience than the clerk position, she said.

The union sent a petition to a steering committee requesting a meeting between NIU President John La Tourette or the steering committee and the union. Marshall said the reply, signed by La Tourette, refused to consider an increment raise for the union.

However, an NIU official said the reply stated neither La Tourette nor the steering committee wished to interfere in the negotiations beyond the efforts of the NIU negotiating team led by Gary Smith. Smith has refused to “mediate the issues in the press,” he said.