On Aug. 7, 2012, maintenance staffers of Fairfield’s Department of Facilities Management casted a majority vote to join Local 30 International Union of Operating Engineers, making them the first and only group of employees at Fairfield to unionize.

It has taken over a year for Fairfield’s Administration and their Maintenance staff to come to agreeable terms for the new Collective Bargaining Agreement that the Maintenance staff made official on Sep. 9, 2013 after voting 28 in favor, two against, one abstained and one member of the 32 staffers who did not show.

“The men of the maintenance, local 30, would like to thank the students, the faculty and the staff for all their support all the way till this point,” said Tim Craig, a 16-year employee at Fairfield and representative of the department of carpenters during their negotiations.

“They made this a lot easier,” Craig continued.

While negotiations are now over, they were unable to come to a close without the intervention of a federal mediator who came at the suggestion of Local 30, according to Pat Bike who represented the department of energy within their staff during negotiations.

Mark C. Reed, senior vice president of administration and chief of staff, who spoke to The Mirror on behalf of the University in early September, explained that bringing in a federal mediator is normal practice during union negotiations.

However, the federal mediator was not the first attempt at grabbing the administration’s attention to the issues at hand.

In April of last year the maintenance staff, along with their families, held a labor rally to garner support for their cause, which was respected by the University.

This demonstration came at a time when no timetable was set for the next meeting with the administration and maintenance staff.

Reed said this demonstration did not lead to the two Aug. of 2013 meetings that lead to the current CBA.

“Any time you have open items, you want to get them resolved,” said Reed.

“Ultimately the University felt it put forward a fair proposal … ultimately largely accepted by the union at the end,” said Reed.

The current CBA was not finalized and signed by administration and maintenance until after the staffers had rejected a previous offer from the University in the Fall semester of 2013.

With job security being the maintenance staff’s biggest concern during negotiations, the biggest victory to come out of these negotiations, according to the maintenance staff, in their new three-year CBA, lies in the phrase: “Just cause.”

Although Reed said, “there is a three year CBA but there is no guarantee of employment in the CBA at all, the University reserves the right to establish staffing levels,” Craig and Bike explained that with the new CBA, Fairfield could no longer terminate a position without just reason.

While Reed explained it has “never been the University’s practice, ever,” to terminate an employee or their position without reason, both Craig and Bike explained that the CBA adds a grievance process that would allow them to challenge any termination they see as unjust, a power they did not have prior to signing the agreement.

Still, Reed noted, “A lot of the things that a union would come in and fight for their members to receive, the University already provides, and as a matter of fact, provides them at a level beyond what a lot of the union members may have at other companies.”

While Fairfield can terminate an employee on Monday, they cannot bring someone else in to do that job on Tuesday.  They instead would have either to bring the previous employee back or enter into the grievance process, according to Bike.

Furthermore, the CBA adds the dimension of seniority to the layoff process.  If the Fairfield decides to lay off a member of the maintenance staff for any just cause, this clause ensures that the most senior members will be the last to go.

While this assures senior members the most job security, Craig and Bike noted that this new agreement also benefits the newest employees by giving the lowest four paid employees a raise they would not get without the CBA.

The 32 members of the maintenance staff voted this clause into the agreement unanimously.

Reed explained that he and Fairfield are happy that this process has come to an end, but doesn’t believe he sees the benefit in the unionization and the singing of the CBA.

“This whole thing has made us all a lot closer,” said Craig, explaining that the 32 members of the maintenance staff have become a family and their connection to the union has created a sort of brotherhood in the staff.

“The camaraderie [at maintenance] is fantastic,” said Bike.

Craig and Bike explained how happy the staffers were that their negotiations, which started because they felt the administration had “become too corporate” over the years, were finally over.

“It’s no secret that the last two years haven’t been easy for Fairfield University, or our nation for that matter, but it’s not like we’re a for-profit corporation driving up its earnings and doing that on the backs of its employees,” said Reed.

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