Yale proposed new 10-year contracts for its two largest unions Monday, marking the University’s first new offer since a walkout earlier this month. Union leaders expressed concern that 10-year contracts would diminish union influence within the University but said they were pleased the University had made a new offer.

The University proposed long-term contracts for members of locals 34 and 35 so that the two sides could work on building a better relationship outside of contract negotiations, Yale leaders said. But union leaders said the contracts, which would be the longest in recent history, are a way for University officials to avoid dealing with workers for an extended period of time.

In an e-mail to faculty, staff and students Monday, Yale President Richard Levin said he hopes the time that an extended contract affords will allow the two sides to “end the pattern of lengthy and unproductive contract disputes.”

Local 35 President Bob Proto said the unions believe the University’s new proposals on wages, pensions, training and job security in the 10-year contract represent a very small move. He said he believes that a long-term contract would make union members “invisible” to Yale.

“They say they want to break the cycle [of bad labor relations],” he said. “But you don’t break the cycle by not dealing with each other.”

He said the unions will respond to the University’s offer at the next bargaining session on Wednesday.

The University’s move comes two weeks after the unions held a five-day walkout alongside the Graduate Employees and Students Organization and unionized workers at Yale-New Haven Hospital. The strike represented the eighth job action in the last 11 rounds of negotiations.

The two sides’ previous contract lasted six years, though the unions have asked in this round of talks to renew contracts every four years. Prior to the previous contracts, most union contracts lasted three years. The University and locals 34 and 35 — which represent nearly 4,000 clerical, technical, service and maintenance workers — have been negotiating new contracts for 13 months.

Proto said the unions were pleased that Yale negotiators presented a new offer, even though he said the proposal itself was inadequate.

“Maybe this is Yale’s attempt to try to really bargain. We’re open-minded to that,” he said. “But if this is not the start of a bargaining cycle where both parties assess their positions, we’re looking at an even longer struggle.”

Yale’s new offer increases wages by 4.5 percent for Local 34 and by 3.25 percent for Local 35 during the second year of the 10-year contract, which would take effect Jan. 1, 2002. Wages would rise 4 percent for Local 34 and 3 percent for Local 35 annually during the remaining nine years.

University negotiators also proposed an increase in the pension formula, a $500 bonus that would be available when the two sides sign contracts, tuition assistance for workers who take classes at institutions other than Yale and an increase in the notification time prior to subcontracting from three to six months in Local 34.

The two sides held three bargaining sessions during the first week of spring break, but Yale officials called a week off to re-evaluate their positions. Workers have not received annual pay raises since contracts expired in January 2002.