Yale, unions reach key settlements

In the first major settlement reached during more than two months of negotiations, Yale and its unions agreed yesterday on job security provisions for Local 35, resolving what were considered to be among the most contentious issues discussed.

Under the agreement, Local 35 dining hall, service and maintenance workers would staff all new buildings in exchange for certain performance and management standards. The agreement would also extend no-layoff guarantees in the Local 35 contract through at least 2010, and increase the minimum staffing levels of Local 35 jobs to 858 by 2006, from the 733.46 full-time equivalent positions under the current contract.

The agreement is considered tentative until final contracts are settled, and represents the first major settlement between Yale and locals 34 and 35, which represent nearly 4,000 Yale workers.

Tuesday’s agreement comes after nearly two weeks of bargaining on Local 35 job security using a new process designed to improve the traditionally acrimonious relationship between Yale and its unions. University spokeswoman Helaine Klasky characterized the agreement as an indication of the commitment of both sides to improving the relationship between Yale and its unions.

“In this era of downsizing and layoffs all around I think [the agreement] is another example demonstrating how serious Yale continues to be in stating how much they value their union work force, and how they’re really working to make sure that our employees get the best contract possible,” Klasky said.

Local 35 President Bob Proto said the settlement was “what our members sent us in to accomplish,” and said it made him trust the new bargaining process more. In a statement released Tuesday, union leaders called the combination of extended no-layoff guarantees and increased guaranteed job levels “the core of a durable long-term job security package.”

But Proto added that union leaders remained concerned about job security issues in Local 34, which are still being negotiated, and about settlement of the overall contracts and the organizing drives of graduate students and hospital workers.

“We want to make sure we look at this from a big picture standpoint,” Proto said. “We need to stay focused on our issues. We don’t want to get caught up celebrating when there is so much more to do.”

The agreement represents the resolution of one of the most important issues for Local 35, as well as an about-face for the University since the last negotiations.

In the last contract negotiations, in 1996, the University won a hard-fought battle for the right to subcontract all work. Since then, subcontracting has remained a major point of contention between the two sides, with union leaders calling it an affront to union security and University leaders emphasizing that they subcontracted in very few cases.

The 1996 subcontracting provisions were originally in effect until 2006, and not subject to mandatory bargaining this year. Before negotiations began, University officials indicated that they would not negotiate on the subcontracting provisions.

But when bargaining for new contracts began in February, Yale negotiators offered to work out an agreement with the unions in which Local 35 would receive work in new areas in exchange for the maintenence of certain standards of work.

In the agreement reached Tuesday, Local 35 members will replace subcontracted employees in the Environmental Science Center once union and University leaders agree to standards of performance and management. Local 35 members will also staff the new Congress Avenue Building at the medical school and Timothy Dwight College, as long as the agreed-to performance and management conditions are met.

According to a union statement, similar “demonstration projects” of exchanging performance standards for work may be implemented in existing buildings, possibly in the Boyer Center for Molecular Medicine, Calhoun College, and the Peabody Museum.

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