With the academic year about to begin, the University of Massachusetts and seven labor unions representing 6,500 faculty and staff have reached an agreement to pay $10.9 million in retroactive wages, both parties announced Thursday.
UMass President Martin T. Meehan said the university needs to begin the year “with a clean slate and with harmony restored to the labor environment.” The unions heralded the news as a victory for worker solidarity.
UMass negotiated new contracts with the unions last year, but because of disagreement between the Legislature and UMass over who should pay for the first year of the agreements, they have been unfunded since they took effect in July 2014.
The three-year contracts call for 3.5 percent annual raises, a total of $13.1 million. The Legislature this year approved $2.2 million toward the raises, but not the other $10.9 million.
Meehan, who has asked the Legislature for money to cover the rest, said Thursday he expects the Legislature to appropriate the additional funds in a supplemental budget expected to be hammered out later this month.
If not, the university will be forced to make mid-year cuts, UMass spokesman Robert Connolly said. That would make a “challenging year even more challenging,” he said.
State Senate President Stanley C. Rosenberg, traditionally a UMass ally, has called for the five-campus system to reduce student fees, something Meehan said would only be possible if the system receives additional money.
Connolly said Meehan has “strong indications based on the discussions he’s had with the leadership of the Legislature” that the contracts will be funded by the Legislature.
The unions had filed complaints about the unpaid wages with the state Department of Labor Relations and a hearing was set for November.
“This type of solidarity and strength works for our students, our schools and colleges, and all working people,” said Barbara Madeloni, president of the Mass. Teachers Association, which oversees the seven unions.