Chancellor Message 8/10/10

Message to Campus
RE Negotiations with Service Employees International Union

Dear Students, Faculty and Staff,

I write to provide you with an update on the status of negotiations with Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 73, the union representing service and maintenance, clerical, and technical employees at UIC. These negotiations are for the successors to our last contracts with these bargaining units, which expired last year.

Contract negotiations have been ongoing for well over a year, in the midst of the University's worst financial crisis in many decades. Even after eight years of severe budget pressures, the University did not receive $279 million in payments from the State by the end of fiscal year 2010, and the appropriation for FY11 has been cut 6 percent. While payments have been received since July, the State still owes the University of Illinois $189 million, and uncertainty continues over the payments that will be delivered during the coming year.

Since the start of negotiations with Local 73, some agreements were reached, and the two parties jointly requested mediation to assist us in getting over the remaining hurdles. Three more sessions with the federal mediator are scheduled this week and next. We are committed to negotiating in good faith to reach an agreement that is fair to our employees and financially responsible. We have a good record in labor relations -- the UIC campus has never had a strike. We value the relationship with SEIU Local 73 as a partner in furthering not only employees' best interests, but also in advancing the missions of higher education in our state.

Nevertheless, at the end of a session with the mediator on Friday, the union presented the campus with its required 10-day notice of intent to strike.

Our goal has always been to provide a fair contract that also is responsible to the patients, the students and their families, and the taxpayers who depend on us. We strive to treat all our employees -- whether unionized or not -- fairly and equitably. Last year, faculty, administrators, and other staff received no general salary increase and were required to take unpaid furloughs which were not applied to employees in the bargaining units. In contrast, the union's demands call for pay raises of nearly 20 percent for employees in each bargaining unit over the three-year contract period. The total cost for all three bargaining units would be approximately $19 million. The union has also requested special reduced parking rates for its members.

We understand that employees represented by Local 73 may choose to strike. However, in view of UIC's dire budget situation, we question the need for a strike, particularly since we are trying to negotiate a fair and equitable contract. Frankly, we cannot afford double digit pay increases, nor are there market or cost-of-living factors which would support such increases.

Regardless of whether the union chooses to call a strike, and whether the individual members it represents choose to walk out, UIC remains committed to the bargaining and mediation process with the ultimate goal of reaching agreement on the terms of a contract that is fair and equitable to all concerned. At the same time, to serve the students, patients, and other people who depend on us, the campus and its medical center are making preparations to continue operations uninterrupted during a strike.

We will provide the UIC community with updates as both processes move forward.


Paula Allen-Meares