- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
St. Mary’s College of Maryland has reached a tentative agreement for raises this year for the college’s nonteaching staff, according to leadership of the employees union.
Bobby Clements, a maintenance worker at the college and president of the local chapter of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, said the agreement was approved unanimously by union members on Sept. 7. It still needs the blessing of the college’s board of trustees before it goes into effect.
“It will go to the board on the Oct. 5 and 6 meeting,” Tom Botzman, vice president for business and finance, said Monday. Botzman said that he would not comment on the tentative agreement until it goes before the board of trustees.
“We ended up getting $1,000 salary increases for all bargaining members,” Clements said last Friday. Those 105 employees include maintenance, grounds, housekeeping, public safety, information technology and some other nonteaching staff.
Clements said that the representatives of the AFSCME union continued to push in Annapolis over the past year, resulting in the state’s department of budget sending a letter to college administrators permitting the raise. He said he believes the college staff may be the only state employees to have the salary increase at this time. “No one else in the state found a way to do this. Only St. Mary’s College did, and that says something,” Clements said.
The state government has said that state employees cannot receive merit raises until 2014. However, all state employees are due for a 2 percent cost-of-living adjustment Jan. 1, 2013. The college staff will also receive that pay increase, Clements said.
The $1,000 adjustment coupled with the 2 percent raise will mean about a 6 percent overall raise for the college’s lowest paid full-time employees, he said.
“The negotiations went perfect. Management was totally professional, we were professional,” Clements said. The talks lasted just four days in August.
“I think we made a great step forward,” Clements said.
The three-year contract will be reopened in year two and three for discussions on wages. “We made tremendous headway that gives workers a voice on the job and tools to use in the next three years,” in addition to the raises, AFSCME organizer Stuart Katzenberg said.
Last spring St. Mary’s College students organized a protest in support of a living wage for college staff. Dozens marched across campus with signs supporting college workers.
Clements said that the protest helped make the board of trustees aware of just how dire the circumstances were for many of the college staff, some of whom said they had to choose among paying for food, medications and housing because of their low salaries. The starting salary for the lowest-paid staff is $24,500.
The trustees in March raised tuition at the college in part to set aside a pool of money for potential raises this fiscal year for staff, faculty and other college employees.
“We begin this year with additional state resources, applied directly to relieve the burden of rising tuition,” President Joseph Urgo said during opening exercises on campus earlier this month. “And thanks to deliberate budget planning, we are in a position at long last to raise salaries across campus. Details will be forthcoming, but I am pleased to report that we have been able to exceed state recommendations in order to reward our staff and faculty, whose work advances the college in so many ways.”
Molly Mahoney Mathews, chair of the trustees, did not return messages before deadline Tuesday.
St. Mary’s College was permitted to give raises this past January for the first time since fiscal year 2008 to some administrators and other employees referred to as operationally critical staff. Eighteen people received those raises, which were between 3 and 11 percent and totaled $116,000.
Also in January, the college gave what was referred to as faculty retention raises, mostly between 2 and 6 percent, to about 50 professors, costing a total of $150,000. About 40 others received faculty retention raises last year, according to college administrators.
General staff at the college — including maintenance, housekeeping and public safety — have not received raises for several years, and college administrators said that is due to a wage freeze imposed by the state government.