University officials and union leaders are offering different predictions for when final contracts will be settled, despite reaching a major agreement last week.
After two months of contract negotiations, many significant issues remain unresolved, including wages and benefits. But Yale administrators said they think contracts can be resolved by Commencement on May 27 even as union leaders predict a longer road.
“We think it is realistic that a contract can be concluded before Commencement,” Yale spokeswoman Helaine Klasky said.
Local 35 President Bob Proto, however, said it was too early to predict when contracts would be resolved.
“Because there are so many major things and important issues that are still without even any discussion, it would be tough for me to predict,” Proto said. “There’s a long way to go and a lot of work left.”
Negotiators have bargaining sessions planned through early May with John Stepp, the labor-management consultant who has been facilitating negotiations. But Proto said he thought the two sides would have to schedule additional sessions with Stepp.
Last week’s agreement on job security for Local 35 came two months after negotiations began and three months after union contracts for locals 34 and 35 — representing Yale’s clerical, technical, service, dining hall and maintenance workers — expired. Both sides have continued to renew the contracts each month, but workers who received annual pay raises under the old contracts have not received their raises this year.
Leaders from both sides hailed the Local 35 agreement as a sign of the success of the interest-based process they are using to make negotiations less contentious, although union leaders expressed concern over the lack of progress in Local 34 job security discussions. After University negotiators asked for more time to consider the issues, both sides temporarily delayed the discussions.
Klasky said the Local 34 job security issues are challenging, but said she thought they could be resolved within the next month.
Because Stepp will be unavailable this week, negotiators will not bargain and will instead work on smaller issues in subcommittees.
Negotiators have yet to discuss economic issues including wages and benefits and have said they do not plan to discuss those until after they conclude the interest-based portion of negotiations in early May.
Union leaders have repeatedly said they want contract talks to include discussions of graduate students and hospital workers trying to unionize, but University leaders have said they will not negotiate over the graduate students and cannot negotiate over the hospital workers.
Some union members said they were worried about the length of negotiations since they will not receive a pay raise until new contracts are signed. In the final agreement, negotiators may decide to make pay raises retroactive to cover the gap between the official end of the last contract and when the new one begins.
“We’re frustrated, almost everyone is, at just how slow the process is right now,” said Local 34 member Rod Storer, an animal technician at the Animal Resource Center.
Storer said he and many of his co-workers are worried that they might not get retroactive pay raises once contracts are signed.
But Karen Aiken, a printing assistant in Reprographic and Imaging Services who belongs to Local 34, said she does not mind the length of the process as long as the contracts are good ones.
“It would have been nice if we had gotten [the pay raise] when we usually do, but I don’t care how long it takes as long as its thorough and accurate and it reflects pretty much how most people feel,” Aiken said.
In the past, contract negotiations routinely have stretched beyond Commencement. The most recent contract was not signed until December 1996, nearly a year after the previous pact expired and 14 months after negotiations began. Negotiators reached an impasse, and the spring featured a four-week strike by each union.