Strike date moved back a week

By Dick Mason, The Observer September 18, 2013 09:49 am

SEIU and OUS bargaining teams move closer to a settlement

Progress at the bargaining table is reducing the likelihood there will be a strike involving student service workers in the Oregon University System, including the 120 who work at Eastern Oregon University.

The strike date for Service Employees International Union Local 503, the union representing the OUS student services workers, has been moved back a week because of the progress being made at the bargaining table. The strike date had been Sept. 23 but is now Sept. 30. 

“We saw a willingness on the part of management to be more creative in working to reach a settlement and avoid a work stoppage,” said Marc Nisenfeld, president of SEIU Local 503. 

The bargaining team for SEIU Local 503 moved its strike date back a week as a result.

“We wanted to give ourselves another week to exhaust every avenue (before striking). It is better to stumble into peace rather than to rush into war,” said Nisenfeld, who works at Portland State University.

An encouraging sign is that another negotiation session was scheduled for today in Corvallis. Previously no bargaining meetings had been scheduled after Sept. 14.

“We think that because they were willing to come back for a negotiation session on Wednesday they did make some headway. It is a good sign,” said Bud Hill, president of the EOU chapter of SEIU Local 503.

Contract talks between bargaining teams for the student services workers and the OUS management team had stalled because of disagreements concerning wages, benefits and contract language.

OUS student services workers have not received a pay increase in about five years. The OUS is offering a base pay increase, but it is below what the union is requesting.

Melody Rose, interim OUS chancellor, said in a written statement that she remains hopeful that a fair settlement can be reached prior to a strike. The new strike date would be the first day of fall term classes at EOU and all OUS

“Regardless of the outcome, OUS campuses are prepared. Classes will begin on time, and campus services will proceed uninterrupted. We respect all of our employees and the contributions they make to student success,” Rose said. “We are committed to a settlement that recognizes the need for fair compensation and benefits within the limited means of all of our campuses.”

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