University News

U. continues negotiations with library worker union

Contract set to expire today

Senior Staff Writer
Thursday, October 14, 2010

After months of negotiations, the University may come to an agreement with the libraries union today.

The contract, originally set to expire Sept. 30, is now set to expire today. After the original expiration date passed, a federal mediator was brought in, according to Karen McAninch ’74, the business agent for the union that represents 65 employees who work for the University library system.

She said negotiators will begin discussions today at 9 a.m., break for a rally on the steps of the Rockefeller Library at 12 p.m., then resume at 1 p.m.

Among the primary points of contention is the structure of health care benefits, McAninch said.

Under the current contract, library workers must pay 6 percent of premiums, but McAninch said the University had been looking to increase that figure to 12 percent next year, 14 percent the year after and 16 percent in three years. She said the University softened its position Tuesday to 11, 13 and 15 percent, respectively.

Still, McAninch said the increases are too high given that pay increased by only 1 percent. She said Brown’s other unions  — such as Dining Services  — have received either smaller employee contributions or larger pay increases in recent contract negotiations.

“They’re giving with one hand and taking it away with the other,” McAninch said.

Brown’s Director of Labor and Employee Relations Joe Sarno said the University tends not to comment on ongoing negotiations.

“Brown values its employees, and our goals in this process are consistent with remaining an employer of choice: to offer competitive and equitable salaries and benefits for all employees, and a positive and desirable work environment,” Sarno wrote in an e-mail to The Herald on Wednesday.

Another issue for the union is the University’s ability to change workers’ schedules. McAninch said the union can currently call a six-month moratorium to investigate Brown’s requests to alter workers’ shifts.

“Now, they want to create a scenario in which they can change schedules just by giving 45 days’ notice,” McAninch said.

She said the union’s ability to halt shift changes was written into the contract several years ago to avoid a lengthy conversation about establishing criteria for when the University should be allowed to change workers’ shifts.

If the University does not budge in upholding the moratorium for the next contract, McAninch said, negotiations could drag on much longer.

McAninch said the University has eliminated several unionized door guard positions in the Rockefeller and Sciences Libraries by sub-contracting library security to non-union workers.

She said the last two remaining union door guards were moved from the Rock to the SciLi this year. Last year’s restructuring also brought the elimination of 12 positions in the libraries’ bargaining unit, though no library staff were laid off.

McAninch said the libraries union is especially concerned over what its position will be as Brown expands its libraries and paper resources become obsolete. For example, the Alpert Medical School’s new library may not include union positions, McAninch said.

The Student Labor Alliance will host a rally on the steps of the Rock today at 12 p.m. to support library workers.

SLA member Becca Rast ’13 said speakers will include local politicians, Professor of English William Keach, library workers, union organizers and students.

Rast said about 175 participants showed up to a similar rally against the layoffs last spring in the same location.

Depending on where this afternoon’s negotiations take place, Rast said participants may march together to the negotiations to deliver a petition at the start of the 1 p.m. negotiations.