Yale, unions agree on contract

After nearly a year of negotiations, Yale administrators and leaders of the University’s Local 34 and Local 35 labor unions announced on Wednesday that they had reached an agreement on new four-year contracts.

The new contracts, which will succeed current contracts expiring in January 2013, address all aspects of employment for the unions’ combined 4,700 members — from wages and health benefits to career development initiatives and local hiring programs, union officials said. UNITE HERE Locals 34 and 35 represent Yale’s technical, clerical and dining hall employees, and according to Michael Peel, the University’s vice president for human resources and administration, the new agreement’s 3 percent annual wage increases will put union pay above the 90th percentile of comparable jobs.

University President Richard Levin said in a press release that the new contracts recognize Yale employees’ “outstanding contribution” to the University’s mission and help extend a “cooperative working relationship” with the unions that has developed in the past decade.

“Our union is highly supportive of the new agreements — we achieved the goals our members were calling for,” said Maureen Jones, vice president of Local 34 and a Sterling Memorial Library employee. “I’ve been here for 32 years, and I’m always happy when the unions and Yale can work collaboratively.”

Beyond what officials called “highly competitive” wage packages, some of the most significant changes to the union contracts include job advancement and local hiring initiatives, Jones said. She added that the new agreement establishes a dedicated career development office to help employees develop a career path and improve their chances at earning promotions. The office will be overseen by a joint union and administration steering committee and will assist clerical and technical staff, Peel said.

In addition to the career development office, the new contracts also strengthen internal hiring by guaranteeing job interviews for internal, union applicants seeking promotion within Yale, Peel said, adding that union and University leaders aim to fill two-thirds of future promotional positions with internal hires.

The new agreement also includes a formal jobs pipeline program for city residents which arose after 92 percent of respondents in an internal Local 34 survey said there was a “crisis of joblessness” in New Haven, Jones said. University and union officials said the pipeline will make it easier for Elm City residents to attain entry-level positions at Yale.

“[The jobs pipeline program] is a great leadership effort by Yale and labor to connect people in New Haven to jobs in New Haven,” Mayor John DeStefano Jr. said in an email. “I hope and expect other workplaces will follow suit.”

Union hires and their families will also continue to have access to free health care through the Yale Health Plan. But because approximately 70 percent of union staff live outside of New Haven, where the Yale Health plan is based, Peel said the contract also includes a cheaper external health insurance option.

Correction: June 29, 2012

A previous version of this article misstated the name of Local 34 vice president Maureen Jones.

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