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The fate of a new contract for dining workers remains uncertain after workers and University officials negotiating over the long weekend agreed to extend a Monday deadline.

The University accepted Brown Dining Services workers' request that their current labor contract — which was due to expire Monday at midnight — be extended for 48 hours because the parties were unable to resolve key differences, chiefly a disagreement over employees' health care contributions.

A federal mediator will assist the parties during the next round of negotiations on Wednesday, said Roxana Rivera, the chief negotiator for the Service Employees International Union, Local 615, which represents the workers.

Rivera said negotiations collapsed on Monday when the University issued a new proposal, offering a 1 to 2 percent wage increase coupled with an across-the-board hike in health care contributions from the current 6 percent to 12 percent. The University's previous health-care proposal, which entailed converting health-care contributions to a ‘sliding scale' — whereby employees would each pay a percentage tied to their income — was also contested by the union.

Negotiators for the workers were "very disappointed with what management came to the table with," Rivera said.

Rivera's counterpart at the negotiating table, director of labor relations Joseph Sarno '91, did not respond to phone calls from The Herald Monday and has declined previously to discuss details of the ongoing negotiations.

"The University appreciates the cordial and professional manner that have characterized these bargaining sessions and is hopeful that the remaining issues will be resolved during the contract extension," Vice President for Public Affairs and University Relations Marisa Quinn wrote in an e-mail to The Herald Monday night.

A proposed change in retirement benefits for future hires — another flash point of negotiations — also remains unresolved, Rivera said.

The union's bargaining committee felt unable to respond to the University's proposal without consulting its members, and thus asked for the extension to call a membership meeting, she added. On Tuesday, the committee will inform workers of the new stakes and possibly ask them to formally authorize union negotiators to call a strike, if they deem one necessary after Wednesday's negotiating session. A strike authorization would not preclude a negotiated agreement.

Federal mediators, like the one who will join the negotiation Wednesday, aim to "improve labor-management relations, to promote collective bargaining and to enhance organizational effectiveness," according to the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service Web site. The same mediator was involved Dining Services' contract renegotiations in 2006, Rivera said.




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