The employee union representing dining services, maintenance and police services at NMU recently ratified a contract on Sept. 27 that will last for three years and include a 2 percent wage increase over the course of all three years.
The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) local 1094 union and the university, came together to negotiate the details of the contract before it was ratified at the Board of Trustees meeting on Thursday, Sept. 21.
“We started getting ready for the AFSCME negotiations in July,” said Rhea Dever, director of human resources for Northern Michigan University. Dever said the negotiations were done through a process called interest-based bargaining.
“You come to the table at the end of the three years, and both sides come with their interests and you discuss, and hopefully you come to an agreement before the contract actually expires,” Dever said.
The contract was ratified overwhelmingly by the AFSCME in 79-8 vote. The contingency plan if both sides could not come to an agreement was to briefly extend the contract to allow for extra negotiating time.
There is an enrollment incentive that states for every 1 percent increase in enrollment, 0.5 percent of base salary will be paid as a bonus to employees.
“The fall 2017 into winter 2018 becomes the baseline period, so their opportunity to earn the incentive would be at the end of the 2018 contract year and the 2019 contract year,”
Dever explained the process of working through the negotiations begins easy and works its way up to the economic grit.
“We usually spend two to three days doing contract language clean-up,” Dever mentioned.
Contract language clean-up begins with the discussion of non-controversial issues including unclear language that could lead to potential disputes down the road.
“If we get questions from an employer or management standpoint then we know we need to clarify some language,”
Typically in the negotiations, one side presents an issue and how they think it should be solved and the other side will counter with their solution until both sides come to an agreement on the terms and the language.
A lot of the small things that the two sides went over was updating the language to reflect the automation in the office. Dever mentioned that a lot of the language was from before computers were the main storage method, meaning they had to accommodate for that.
Another big part of the negotiations was being able to
“The goal sometimes is to meet in the middle,” Dever said. “Both sides didn’t get everything they wanted, but the contract was
ratified because they were able to agree on language that had benefits for both sides.”
Getting to the economics of the negotiation comes last because it is the most controversial issue discussed, Dever said.
The reason they wait is because after they’ve come to agreements on the rest of the issues, they know they’re capable of doing the
“It allows us to be in the same room, having a conversation, rather than just passing papers back and forth to each other,”