SVSU’s Board of Control approved a three-year contract with the Support Staff Association (SSA) on Monday, June 18.
Tish Yaros, who has served as the SSA president for 10 years, worked throughout April and May to amend the existing contract. SSA recommended changes based on the results of a survey given to SSA members, which include secretarial, maintenance and clerical staff, about their wants and needs for the contract negotiations.
“Once we get the survey back, we analyze where we want to go with the negotiations, and we form a team of secretary and plant workers from all different levels to represent everybody,” Yaros said. “Then, Administration does the same thing. It’s usually through HR.”
Bill Prince, who has worked as a third-shift custodian at SVSU for six years, was one of Yaros’ team members. He played multiple roles in the contract negotiations.
“I did some research on salary structures, which helped bring SVSU’s contract in line with what is the prevailing wages for the work we do,” Prince said. “I was also able to represent the third-shift perspective on any changes that were made to the contract.”
Based on the work of members like Prince and the survey results, Yaros and her team decided that SSA members were more worried about the second stage of negotiations, money, than the first, the contract language.
“The contract is older, so we don’t really have to change the wheels,” Yaros said. “We may have to tweak a little bit of language here and there, but, for the most part, the language is there.”
While the negotiations were standard this year, the entire contract was opened up opposed to opening up only a few sections of it. Doing so made the negotiation process longer, but it allowed Yaros and her team to review issues that were created by not opening up the entire contract during the last few negotiations. Such issues included the timing and posting of jobs, uniform allowances, additional pay, professional development, mandatory overtime and more.
However, because of time constraints and the difficulty of negotiating so many issues at once, the SSA team decided to discuss several of these issues after the contract negotiations.
“We agreed to talk about (many of these issues) outside of the bargaining table,” Yaros said. “It was too much to handle at the table.”
Overall, Yaros and her team are happy with the contract.
“Once we got to discussing money, we thought what we got was fair,” Yaros said. “Was it as much as we wanted? No, but we understand that the university’s at a time where it’s hurting a little bit, so we took our hit, just like everybody else.”
Prince has more mixed feelings about the results of the contract. While he was initially happy with it, he does see problems emerging since the contract was finalized, such as implementation of certain changes and disparate other issues that Prince “was not at liberty to discuss.”
“I would have liked to have gotten a little bit better financial compensation,” Prince said. “The understanding we thought we had (on other issues), perhaps we don’t have, so we’re going back to management to iron out a few things that I thought were already resolved.”
Overall, though, he is satisfied with the contract. He found Crane’s professionalism and interest in balancing the needs of the university and representing the needs of SSA members like himself as a positive sign for further negotiations.
“(Crane’s) insightful comments and professionalism actually gives me a lot of hope for future (negotiations),” Prince said.