Clerical workers reach contract agreement

Written By Dara Collins, Editor-in-Chief

Clerical workers at Point Park University reached their first contract agreement with the institution as members of United Steelworkers (USW) on Feb. 10, 2020, according to a USW press release.

“We are pleased to have come to an agreement with our clerical workers, who play an important role in the day-to-day functions of the University,” Point Park’s Managing Director of Marketing and Public Relations Lou Corsaro said.

The contract affects six employees at the university, according to Corsaro. Damon Di Cicco, president of USW Local 1088 and adjunct faculty member in the School of Communication, explained the employees affected are those who work in the copy center or the mailroom.

This is the first contract the university’s clerical workers reached as a part of USW, and the agreement includes a wage increase, the first the employees have had since 2017.

“I think the real issue is that they hadn’t had a new contract for quite a long time with their previous union, so there was still an old contract that was still in effect that was protecting them in a variety of different ways, but it hadn’t been renegotiated for several years,” Di Cicco said via phone. “As a result, they hadn’t seen a raise, or any of those kinds of material gains in a long while.”

The USW press release details the improvements of the new contract. Point Park’s clerical employees will receive an immediate 2.75 percent wage increase for 2020 and a lump-sum bonus. Wage increases are also ensured for the next two years.

“That means that the six people represented by this contract, they will get whatever raise the rest of the staff receives, but if the rest of the staff receives no raise, they still will get a 1 percent increase,” Di Cicco said. “If the university were to freeze wages due to low enrollment or low revenues or whatever the reason might be, our members will still get a minimum of a 1 percent raise.”

The agreement also includes improved vacation benefits. Di Cicco explained that new hires will be eligible for more vacation sooner.

Additionally, the contract includes an improved grievance procedure.

“Their old contract that they had been working under was a little bit out of date in terms of who they should go if there is a grievance, which is basically when the union thinks that the contract has been violated in some way,” Di Cicco said. “We were able to just get that process spelled out more clearly and I think more efficiently than it had been in their old contract.”

The negotiation process to achieve the updated agreement was relatively short, according to Di Cicco.

“The nature of the process is one side makes a proposal, the other side has to go check on various types of information to see what the appropriate counter proposal would be, so the whole back and forth took a few months, but it was only about half dozen meetings, I think,” Di Cicco said.

Di Cicco said the contract was agreed upon overall. In the press release, Di Cicco describes the agreement as fair.

“I would say there were a few points of disagreement,” Di Cicco said. “On the whole, it was pretty cordial.”

This announcement comes after the tentative contract agreement between the university and adjunct faculty last fall. Point Park employs nearly 340 adjunct faculty members, and the new agreement also increased wages among other improvements.

The Globe made an attempt to reach some of the affected clerical employees, but a response was not received at the time of publication.

“I don’t think anyone was expecting earth-shattering changes,” Di Cicco said. “My sense is that people are content with what we were able to get. I think it’s a step forward, it’s definitely an improvement in a number of ways, and it represents a good compromise between a union and the university.”