In a major move during bargaining Thursday, union leaders said they would accept Yale’s proposed wage increases and implement them immediately. But Yale negotiators swiftly rejected the proposal, maintaining that contracts cannot be settled in pieces.
Union leaders argued that the gap between Yale and union offers on wages is “not as great as our differences on other issues,” and asked the University to immediately implement its proposed across-the-board wage increases for the first year of the contracts. But University leaders said they still believe that the full contracts can be settled quickly.
Union leaders also agreed to extend the old contracts by another month. The decision to extend contracts means that union members cannot hold a strike or other job actions through the end of February.
Yale and locals 34 and 35 have been negotiating new contracts since last February. Contracts expired last January and both sides have renewed them on a monthly basis since then.
Workers have not received annual pay raises because contracts have not been settled. Under the unions’ proposal, workers would receive retroactive raises in accordance with Yale’s last wage offer, which the University presented last June.
Locals 34 and 35 represent nearly 4,000 clerical, technical, service and maintenance workers.
Local 34 President Laura Smith said Yale’s refusal to consider the unions’ offer was “appalling.”
“They made it clear that their interest was not just for seeing that our members get some financial reward,” Smith said. “We had hoped that this would really be an opportunity to jumpstart negotiations.”
But Yale spokesman Tom Conroy said that the University is “uninterested in a piecemeal contract.”
“It doesn’t make sense to us to take one issue and leave other things unresolved,” he said.
Conroy said that since the unions are willing to accept Yale’s proposed wage raise for the first year, they should feel that the University’s wage offer for the whole contract is reasonable.
“If they believe that the University’s first-year wage proposal is fair, it follows that the entire package is fair,” he said.
Union leaders last lowered their proposed salary increases Oct. 2. Yale negotiators said at the time that the change was too small to have a significant impact on negotiations.
Conroy said that though the unions’ proposal suggests that a complete agreement cannot be reached anytime soon, the University still hopes that full contracts can be settled “swiftly.”
“Employees could receive good raises now and in future years, if the [unions] would focus exclusively on the bargaining table,” he said.
Local 35 President Bob Proto said he believes that if negotiations continue to proceed without progress, it is likely that the unions will not extend the contracts again next month.
“Our members are sort of fed up with Yale’s lack of commitment,” he said. “I doubt very much that the contracts will be renewed past this month unless Yale has decisionmakers come to the table to do some serious bargaining.”
The two sides held three bargaining sessions this week. They have scheduled three more days of bargaining for next week and plan to hold sessions through the end of February.
Both Yale and the unions extend contracts automatically, unless either party opts to cancel the contract 15 days before the end of the month. The contracts contain “no strike, no lockout” clauses, which prohibit job actions while the contracts are in effect.