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Friday, November 28, 2014

Union staff pay raise delayed by four weeks

Union staff employees missed out on nearly four weeks of a pay raise, and UNM officials said Human Resources does not plan to reimburse the lost wages.

All UNM staff members who are not a part of the union started receiving their raise on July 1, according to University officials, however because contract negotiations between the University and the United Staff at UNM were ongoing, union members were unable to receive the pay increase.

All university staff members were guaranteed a 1.9 percent raise by the New Mexico legislature in February, and the Board of Regents voted to increase the raise to 2.5 percent in late March.

Jeanette Albany, a union member and administrative assistant for the Communication and Journalism Department, said she contacted the staff council, the union and Human Resources after receiving her first reduced check and did not receive any explanation as to why her check was lessened.

All she knew was that she did not receive her promised pay raise and was paying more in deductions, she said.

“They were taking all that out, but we didn’t get our raise, so I got a net loss, a decline in my pay,” she said.

Albany’s situation is not an isolated incident. University officials said there are 879 employees in the bargaining unit between UNM and the United Staff at UNM, and those who were in active status with continuous employment as of Jan. 1 and still active in July were subject to the change in pay.

Union officials did not comment prior to the publication of this article but said they would release a statement to members in the upcoming weeks.

In addition, union members’ paychecks actually decreased because of an unrelated increase in contributions to the employee retirement fund, which went into effect July 1, according University officials.

However, because of contract negotiations, union members did not receive the raise until the pay period beginning July 26, the first period after the contract was signed — nearly four weeks after the rest of UNM staff, according to a statement from UNM.

Because of the sensitive nature of contract negotiations, both union and University officials could not comment on the details of negotiations, why negotiations lasted as long as they did and why the contract was not signed until late July.

University officials confirmed that it would not be retroactively paying the union members for their raise because negotiations dictate when pay changes for union members go into effect.

Almost $184 million was allocated by the state legislature in February to fund the pay raise, according to the New Mexico legislative briefing from February 20.

UNM did not comment on where the excess funds that were withheld from union members would be allocated.

Daniel Montaño is a news editor for the Daily Lobo. He can be reached at news@dailylobo.com or on Twitter @DailyLobo.