August 13, 2009

UAW, University Reach Contract Agreement

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The United Auto Workers Local 2300 and the University came to an agreement on July 22 regarding their new three-year contracts, effective immediately, following a month of negotiations between the two parties.
UAW Local 2300 represents approximately 1,200 Cornell employees. The union’s president Terry Sharpe noted that the UAW gave up no provisions from the last contract, which expired on June 30.
“A lot of our members are just grateful to have their jobs,” Sharpe said.
The agreement passed by 73 percent in the local UAW meeting. The final meeting between the two parties took place on July 13, when the University administration agreed on a draft.
“The biggest concern was wages,” Sharpe said.
With the mercurial nature of the economy and last semester’s layoffs, wages were indeed a key issue teetering in the balance of the agreement. The final agreement gives UAW laborers at least a 2 percent wage increase in the second and third years of the contract, with more lucrative raises in the cards if the grim financial atmosphere turns around.
One of the biggest concerns that came up in the last contract was the issue of temporary employment. A good number of Cornell employees are laid off during the summer break, and the several months without income can be devastating, according to Sharpe.
To alleviate the effects of temporary employment, a joint committee was created in the deal. It will work to solve the problem and to help those laid off to find temporary work, according to Alan Mittman, Cornell’s new director responsible for labour relations.
“As a whole, there were moments of disagreement,” Mittman said. “But in the end, we all came together.”
Fil Eden ’10, president of the Cornell Organization for Labor Action, said that the joint committee is an important step forward.
“The summer layoffs is perhaps the most significant challenge facing Cornell workers right now, and the joint committee is one of the most positive things to come out of the contract,” Eden said. “It has the potential to ensure that every Cornell worker earns a living wage. At the same time … it will be the role of the union and the students who support our workers to make sure the administration is living up to its commitment and actually pursuing fuller employment for all of our workers.”