Professional employees at the University of Connecticut voted overwhelmingly Thursday to return to the bargaining table with university officials after withdrawing a controversial contract from the state legislature last week.
The UConn Professional Employees Association (UCPEA), which employs about 1,900 non-teaching professionals at the university, said 78 percent of its members who voted were in favor of returning to the bargaining table rather than resubmitting the existing proposed contract to the legislature. About 70 percent of its members cast votes on the decision.
“This is a democratic decision made by our members” UCPEA President Kathleen Sanner said in a statement Thursday. “Our priorities heading back to the collective bargaining process remains to do what is right for our members, the university we care about and our students. We will continue to work and ensure that our voice is heard in Hartford to support the collective bargaining process, which was so egregiously disrespected by the governor and the General Assembly.”
Under the previously negotiated contract with the university, UCPEA employees would receive raises of about a 3 percent next year and 4.5 percent in the four years after that. The governor’s Office of Policy and Management estimated it would cost the university just under $94 million.
Reaction to the proposed contract from state officials and legislators on both sides of the aisle was negative, given the budget deficits faced by both the university and the state.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, Senate President Pro Temp Martin M. Looney and Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff called for the contract to be rejected last week.
UConn President Susan Herbst defended the contract in an email to university employees Thursday. She said while the university respects the union’s vote, the board of trustees would not have approved the contract if it did not believe it could handle the costs.
“Unfortunately, some of the discussion about the contract over the last few weeks included statements that were not fair or factual regarding the negotiation process, the contract’s provisions, and the potential effect the contract would have on the university,” Herbst wrote in the email.
“The university determined it could fund the cost of the final contract within our anticipated operating budget and through efficiency gains, which was a key consideration for us during the negotiations. ... We can only control those things that are within our control,” Herbst continued.
The existing contract is set to expire at the end of June. Any new contract must be approved by the state legislature before it can take effect.