WSU civil service workers negotiate for long-term pay raises

Representatives from the Washington Federation of State Employees (WFSE) and WSU officials continue salary contract negotiations today.

WSU is home to approximately 1,800 classified staff. Almost 300 are unionized with WFSE and do not benefit from WSU President Elson S. Floyd’s announcement of a one-time 4 percent payment designated for eligible civil service employees.

The 4 percent bonus will be added to the March 25 paychecks. This is the first pay increase for qualified civil service staff since 2012. But for WSU employees who are a part of WFSE, it’s been more than six years since any salary increase.

On Monday, WSU bargaining teams offered WFSE members a one-time 4 percent payment, similar to what Floyd announced on Feb. 6 for the eligible civil service staff. However, WFSE declined their offer.

This January, eligible administrative professional staff, faculty and graduate students received a 4 percent across-the-board salary increase. According to President Floyd’s blog, WFSE members were not included because civil service salaries are established and managed at the state level.

The University of Washington provided its classified staff with a 4 percent increase for the next two years. Electronics technician Roger Eberhardt is concerned as to why WSU cannot do the same.

“We feel in all fairness that we deserve the same consideration, which is a 4 percent permanent raise,” Eberhardt said.

The current contract negotiations are a matter of equality in pay systems, he said.

“WSU is world class, and we wanted to be treated the same,” he said.

Eberhardt met with Floyd on Monday in addition to attending today’s negotiation session. From the meeting he had with the university president, Eberhardt said he felt that WFSE’s message was communicated thoroughly.

“I am cautiously optimistic that he seemed to hear what we had to say,” Eberhardt said.

Theresa Elliot-Cheslek, WSU’s chief human resource officer, said civil service staff includes custodians, office personnel, and food service workers. The contract being negotiated at the moment with WFSE is for 2013 to 2015. 

“We have to negotiate in good faith,” she said.

Kendra Wilkins-Fontenot, the assistant director of Human Resource services, said the overall goal today is to come to a deal.

“I’m looking forward to an agreement,” she said. 

Tim Welch serves as WFSE’s director of public relations based in Olympia.

“We want a raise that builds into the base so that it will be there for years to come, which helps with pension,” Welch said. “It really does help with keeping good employees at Washington State University.”