University proposes new wages to union

By The Associated Press

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. – The University of Illinois is making a new contract offer to members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, according to school and union officials.

Union Local 698 represents about 400 workers at the university, from laboratory assistants to library technicians. They will meet Oct. 25 at the Urbana Civic Center to vote on the offer.

The proposed contract includes a 2.5 percent raise in the first year, including back pay to Aug. 28, 2005, the day after the last contract expired. It would also raise wages 2.5 percent effective Sunday and beginning Dec. 2, 2007, either a 2.5 percent pay increase, or a raise in the amount of the UI’s campus wage program, whichever is higher.

Local 698 Vice President Margaret Lewis called the university’s current offer “much better” than what it proposed in May.

That offer included a raise of 1.5 percent below the amount of the campus wage program. If the across-the-board campus wage raise had been 3 percent, AFSCME 698 members would have gotten a 1.5 percent increase.

Union members rejected that offer.

“We felt like we had won a significant victory over the course of summer,” Lewis said. “But we’re still unhappy about the fact that the raise still lags behind inflation and that there was the offsetting of the second and third year.”

Members had wanted a 3 percent raise, which the school “just doesn’t have resources for,” according to university spokeswoman Robin Kaler.

“We’re doing the very best we can within the resources we have available. We absolutely appreciate and understand the hard work the folks in this union provide and we are trying to do everything we can to make sure they are compensated accordingly,” Kaler said.

The last raise AFSCME 698 members received was in late August 2004 for about 2.25 percent.