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LCC's classified employees approve labor contract.

Byline: Greg Bolt The Register-Guard

Lane Community College is halfway through this year's labor negotiations with the recent approval of a new seven-year contract for its classified workers union.

Union members will receive a 1 percent cost of living increase this year, and members eligible to move up one step on the salary scale will instead move up a half step. The employee share of insurance costs will increase 1.5 percent, but workers will get a $150 lump sum payment that they can use to help cover the higher cost.

Workers also will get an extra 81 hours of paid leave, which works out to about two weeks of time off. Also, the college agreed not to lay off any more workers for the term of the contract.

Greg Morgan, LCC's associate vice president for finance, said the deal will cost the college $460,000 this year.

Although it's a seven-year deal, the sides will renegotiate a pay and benefit package next year and again in 2011 and 2013. That allows the college to align bargaining with the Oregon legislative session, when its budget is determined.

That's been a priority for LCC President Mary Spilde, who said the college needs to know how much state support it's going to get before it makes new deals with employees. The college is trying to end years of annual budget cuts tied to declining state support and rising costs.

Spilde said LCC wants to compensate its employees fairly but must gets costs in line with revenues. That means not promising to pay workers more than the college can afford based on how much funding it receives from the state.

The college set aside $1 million for raises and benefit increases this year, less than usual but the most it can afford, Spilde said.

Bob Baldwin, president of the classified union, said 96 percent of union members supported the agreement in a vote last week.

"It's as good a deal as we could expect," he said. "The college's financial situation makes what I would call a truly fair contract not possible."

He called the no-layoff clause a "huge factor in making this a palatable agreement."

The pay scale has nine steps, and workers typically move up one step after each year of service, earning a step raise in addition to the cost-of-living increase. But this year workers eligible for a whole step will instead only get half of that, a 2.15 percent raise.

Fewer than 25 percent of the approximately 400 members of the bargaining unit were eligible for a step increase this year, Baldwin said. Other workers only received the 1 percent cost-of-living raise.

The union opted not to join the new statewide insurance pool set up for K-12 public school employees, which community colleges have the option of selecting. Instead, the union will stick with a plan from Springfield-based PacificSource.

The cost of that plan will increase 4.5 percent this year. The college will pick up 3 percent of the increase.

Baldwin said union members wanted to wait and see how the new state plan works out before deciding whether to join. Once a bargaining unit decides to join the state plan, it is barred by law from opting out.

That issue is more contentious in negotiations with the faculty union, which still are in progress. The faculty voted to join the state plan and the LCC board agreed. But the two sides couldn't reach agreement on how the money saved by the switch would be used in future years, and the deadline for joining the state plan passed.

Moving to the state plan could save the college several hundred thousand dollars a year, although that depends on the size of future rate increases.
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Title Annotation:City/Region
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Jul 6, 2008
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