NIU workers give contract package OK

By Tammy Sholer

More than 300 food service and building maintenance workers unanimously ratified the recent contract package which might result in a three-year contact within a month if the Board of Regents approves the package.

Diane Tilton, president of local 963 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) said, “The membership (local 963) is elated over it (the package).” All food service and building maintenance workers are members of AFSCME.

The package has many contractual improvements including changes in bidding rights, in job bumping and in the grievance procedures which the workers were trying to change, Tilton said.

If the Regents approve the package at their October meeting, workers will receive specified job locations, Tilton said, which was a main issue during negotiations. Without a contract workers’ job locations were less specific and seniority was not heeded.

Another positive aspect of the potential contract is new language in bumping rights, Tilton said. She said the details of the language are confusing, but now workers have three options as opposed to one.

Tilton said the potential contract also contains new language for many issues.

Workers will not be receiving a higher salary because negotiations were not about more money. Rather they covered contract language and better working conditions.

owever, a stipulation in the contract states if extra money is found, bargaining sessions will re-open to discuss pay raises, Tilton said.

Unfair labor practice charges filed by AFSCME against the university are still pending, said Robert Perkovich, executive director for the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board. Investigations will continue until more information is acquired.

Charges were filed because NIU did not bargain with the union before implementing changes. Regulations state that employers have to bargain with the union before any changes can be made if a mandatory subject is at hand. Bargaining must be to the point of impasse.

Eddie Williams, vice president for finance and planning, was unable to be reached for comment.

The university and AFSCME have been negotiating since April before the workers’ previous contract expired June 30. During negotiations the union considered the old contract effective so workers’ rights would not be ignored.

In the workers’ battle for a new contract, a formal intent to strike was filed July 29, giving workers the right to strike. Sixty workers picketed Aug. 7 in King Memorial Commons.