Progress Slow in Yale Negotiations

Negotiations between Yale University and its clerical and maintenance unions have made little progress and an informal deadline for an contract agreement has passed, but both sides this week said they remain optimistic they can avoid a strike.

The unions had hoped to conclude the negotiations by early this month, but because they and the university want to bargain on different contractual issues, negotiations have gone slowly, said Sheila W. Wellington, university secretary and management representative.

Both unions' current contracts expire on January 16.

The unions want to discuss both job classification and economic concerns at the same time, but the university will offer no proposals with specific salary figures until the two sides are agreed on job classification, Wellington said.

The way that workers' jobs are classified will have significant impact on their salary and other economic costs to the university, she said.

Workers claim that in the present job classification system, similar jobs are categorized differently, and therefore pay widely varying salaries.

The unions had set December I as an informal settlement target date, and because of the passing of the deadline, the unions "are becoming angrier and more militant," said Lee L. Berman, chief steward for the clerical and technical union. "We're very hopeful that there will be no need to strike," she said.

University officials are not concerned with the missed deadline because they never agreed to it, said Wellington.

The union has proposed across the board 7 percent pay hikes for employees in each of the next three years, plus improved employee benefits, Berman said.

A university study concluded that implementation of initial union salary and benefit demands would amount to a 105 percent increase in total employee expenditures for the university over the next three years, Wellington said.

"You can't do all the things that a university of Yale's stature must do...in terms of maintaining excellence in teaching and resources and in terms of need blind admissions" if the demands were met, according to Wellington.

"I think the fact that [the university] hasn't given us any economic counterproposal in 15 negotiating sessions is very much indicative of the way the university sees the negotiations," Berman said. She said she thinks the university is bargaining in bad faith.

The president of the maintenance and service union, Thomas Gaudioso, has said that the university study was unreliable because it is too early to figure out exactly how much the union's proposal will cost.

There have been five strikes at Yale since 1968, the last one occurring in 1984.