Western, unions agree to new compensation floor, lump sum payment

Western Today staff

Western Washington University, the Washington Federation of State Employees and the Public School Employees of Western Washington University have agreed to two new measures: raising the university’s minimum level of compensation and a one-time lump sum payment.

“Compensation for employees is a top priority for Western. WWU’s status as a premier undergraduate institution and one of the best universities of its kind in the nation traces directly to the expertise, dedication and hard work of Western employees. The university must have the ability to attract and to retain high-caliber employees, and compensation is an important factor,” said Western President Bruce Shepard.

The university and unions signed memorandums of agreement on both. Western’s Board of Trustees supports these measures.

Shepard praised the strong partnership of Western, its union leadership and employees.

“The 1 percent bump will be gone in a heartbeat but the gesture is worth its weight in gold. And making sure that our fellow coworkers are close to a living wage of $15 an hour is a life-changing event for some of them,” said Steve Vanko, president of WFSE 1381.

The PSE chapter of WWU ratified the MOU on Friday with 100 percent of members voting yes.

“PSE is very appreciative of this agreement to our wage reopener. We want to emphasize that a one-time payment is not a permanent increase. Many of our members are having a hard time economically. The compensation floor is the absolute right thing to do and we applaud the University for taking this step. We see this as a first step working together with the University administration to address our compensation issues. Compensation is the top priority for PSE as our members are struggling without any cost of living adjustments since 2008,” said Susan Banton, president of PSE of WWU.

Minimum compensation floor: Effective July 1, 2014, the base salary for permanent (half-time or greater) WFSE and PSE employees will be brought to a new minimum compensation floor. Current WFSE and PSE employees below $15 an hour will be moved up to the step closest to $15 an hour in the state’s salary schedule. New WFSE and PSE employees will be brought to the new level, following successful completion of six months’ service.

The change applies to permanent employees and not to temporary employees and those working less than half time.

Sixty nine of Western’s 2,100 employees will be affected. As of July 1, one employee at pay level 25 will be brought to $13.94 an hour; 25 employees at pay level 26 will be brought to $14.26 an hour and the rest, now all at higher pay levels, will be brought to $14.93 per hour.

Job categories primarily affected include some custodians, grounds workers, fiscal technicians and library paraprofessionals.

President Shepard said he is authorizing this new compensation floor because he believes it is the right thing to do and a reflection of Western’s institutional values in support of living-wage jobs.

While Western and the two unions have not concluded contract negotiations for 2015-17, they have agreed the compensation floor will be carried forward.

1-percent lump sum payments: When working on the 2013-15 contracts, Western anticipated that the state would provide a 1-percent cost of living adjustment for WFSE and PSE union employees.

Under the 2013-15 state operating budget and terms of the state’s collective bargaining agreements with unions representing many state employees, salaries would have risen by 1 percent if, as a result of increased economic activity, the February 2014 quarterly revenue forecast had been at least $200 million higher than what was forecast in September 2012. Revenue growth generated by economic changes increased only $11.7 million over that period. That increase was too small to trigger a 1-percent cost of living adjustment for many state employees (the last cost of living adjustment by the state was in 2008).

Since compensation is a top university priority, Western and the two unions have agreed to partially offset the loss of state increase with a one-time lump sum payment to WFSE and PSE bargaining unit employees.

For WFSE, in addition to previously agreed to lump sum payments of 2.20 percent paid Aug. 25, 2013 and 1 percent to be paid on Dec. 14, 2014, a 1-percent lump sum will be added.

For PSE, in addition to a previously agreed to 2.5 percent lump sum paid Dec. 10, 2013, a 1.7-percent lump sum payment will be added.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014 - 12:44pm