University News

Dining Services reaches new contract agreement

Employees receive retroactive pay increase, additional bereavement time and day care benefits

By
Senior Staff Writer
Monday, February 3, 2014

Under a new contract, Brown Dining Services workers will receive an improved pension plan and wage increases, among other benefits.

Brown Dining Services workers and their union, United Service and Allied Workers of Rhode Island, reached an agreement on a new contract with the University in late December. The major financial issues under consideration in the contract negotiations — which began in October 2013 — included wage, pension and health insurance changes.

The University was “ready and willing to offer workers a retroactive wage increase up to October 2012,”  said Karen McAninch, business agent for USAW-RI. Dining Services workers will receive 2.5 percent retroactive pay and an additional 2.25 percent this year and in 2015.

The union sought a contract expiration date of Oct. 12, whereas the University preferred mid-January. The two groups compromised, setting a November 2015 expiration date.

“The University was more than pleased to be able to reach a fair and equitable agreement with our Dining Service employees,” wrote Paul Mancini, director of labor and employee relations, in an email to The Herald. “I think the employees shared this belief, since the vote to ratify the contract was an overwhelming 122 to two.”

A controversial issue that emerged during negotiations was whether Dining Services workers should pay less than other union employees for health insurance, since they earn less income, McAninch said. The workers’ percentage pay is less than that of the higher-paid library and Department of Facilities Management employees, who will be paying 12 percent, and of the custodians, who will be paying 10 percent, she added. It was decided that Dining Services workers will continue to pay 8 percent until the contract’s expiration. Following the expiration, their health insurance payment will go up to 9 percent.

Dining Services workers’ pension was improved and is now in line with the Facilities Management workers’ plan. The multiplier, which incorporates employees’ years of service and average wage for the last or best five years, increased from 1.74 percent to 1.78 percent.

Workers’ bereavement will also improve, changing from five working days to five calendar days of bereavement for situations affecting workers’ immediate family.

As the school year includes multiple breaks during winter and summer, Dining Services workers often struggle to collect unemployment during these periods, McAninch said. To take a step toward resolving this issue, five Dining Services workers who currently work 41 weeks of the year — distinguishing them as partial-year workers — will be upgraded to 52 weeks a year, becoming full-year employees. A cook’s helper and baker’s helper will be hired as well.

“We did not get as much as we wished for, but are convinced that this is something that needs to be done in stages,” McAninch added.

Workers also received a day care subsidy, which requires an adjusted gross family income of under $100,000 and a child under age six.

The allowance ranges from $1,000 to $4,000 depending on income, McAninch said. “There were several people in Dining who were applying as soon as we ratified,” she added.

Workers whose shifts start at or after 5 p.m. will receive a shift differential, which essentially serves as overtime pay. The differential currently applies to employees at Josiah’s and Andrews Commons, she said.

The Dining Services workers have received support from Brown students, especially the Student Labor Alliance, which worked with both the workers and their union this past fall. SLA members attended one of the first meetings last October between Dining Services workers and USAW-RI and listened to their concerns and demands, said Chance Dunbar ’17, an SLA member.

“Students and workers face connected challenges in terms of raising their voices and demanding justice and respect from a Brown administration that constantly attempts to stifle their power,” wrote Gabrielle Tomson ’15, another SLA member, in an email to the Herald.

Following the meeting, the SLA drafted a petition calling for Dining Services workers’ demands to be met. The petition was made at the request of the Dining Services workers and urged fellow students to stand in solidarity with them, Dunbar said.

“We are only as satisfied as the workers are satisfied,” he said, adding that in his post-negotiations communication with workers, they have had a positive response to the contract’s results.

Ann Hoffman, director of administration and human resources for Dining Services, declined to comment on the Dining Services contract changes.