Oregon university talks: Strike deadline put off

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Updated: September 16, 2013, 3:17 PM

 

EUGENE, Ore. — Union leaders representing staff workers at Oregon’s public universities say there’s been progress in contract talks, so they’re putting off a strike deadline.

The 4,300 workers such as cooks, custodians and nurses had been looking at a strike as soon as Sept. 23.

But on Monday, union bargainer Marc Nisenfeld told the Eugene Register-Guard (http://bit.ly/1bnmfHO ) that the strike deadline will be delayed a week to Sept. 30 — the day fall classes are set to start.

University system leaders have vowed to start classes on schedule.

Negotiations are to resume Wednesday. Wages are the sticking point.

The system has offered cost-of-living raises of 1.5 percent in year one, 2 percent in year two. The union wants 2.5 percent both years. The system offered a year of step increases. The union wants two.

“We saw some signs that management is motivated and dedicated to get this to a settlement before a strike so we wanted to give some of these things time to play out,” Nisenfeld said.

He wouldn’t be more specific about what happened during negotiations Friday and Saturday but generally characterized it as the university system’s willingness to be more creative to reach a settlement.

If the workers were to strike, the schools would ask non-striking employees to do some of the work and would also rely on temporary workers it is lining up, spokeswoman Di Saunders told The Oregonian.

“There absolutely will not be any class cancellations,” she said.

The system’s interim chancellor, Melody Rose, issued a statement Monday that expressed confidence a settlement could be reached to avert a strike.

“We respect all of our employees and the contributions they make to student success. We are committed to a settlement that recognizes the need for fair compensation and benefits within the limited means of all of our campuses,” she said.

The union also voted to authorize a strike in 2011 before reaching agreement on the current two-year deal.

The union last had a strike for less than a week in fall 1995.