Catching up: UW campuses' unionized trades employees still waiting on raise from last year

Catching up: UW campuses' unionized trades employees still waiting on raise from last year

Bascom Hall

The few hundred unionized trades employees tending to University of Wisconsin System campuses are still waiting for a legislative committee to consider raises the UW System Board of Regents approved six months ago.

The Regents approved 2% inflationary raises dating back to January, but the raises require approval from the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Employment Relations, which has not held a single meeting this calendar year.

Once the pay increases clear committee, the Assembly, Senate and Gov. Tony Evers must also sign off before tradespeople see any raise.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, and Senate President Roger Roth, R-Appleton, serve as co-chairmen of the Joint Committee on Employment Relations.

Vos spokeswoman Kit Beyer said Friday that a meeting will be scheduled in “the very near future.” She said the committee had been waiting on state employee compensation documents from the state Department of Administration, as well as UW System and UW-Madison, before they met.

UW System and UW-Madison, however, sent letters to the committee asking for approval of the trades employees raises in May. And agreements from collective bargaining units are treated independently of state employee compensation plans.

“Our contracts have nothing to do with the state employee compensation plan,” said Dave Branson, executive director of the Building and Construction Trades Council of South Central Wisconsin, which represents the UW trades people.

He called Republicans’ reasoning for the delay an attempt to “shift blame away” from the committee’s “inaction.”

Other UW System employees received two separate 2% raises last fiscal year, likely marking the first time nonunion employees received a larger pay increase than union members, according to Branson.

Building Trades Council members were ineligible for the raise and could only negotiate for a 2% increase because the anti-union Act 10 law restricts how much a public-sector union can negotiate in base wage increases to the rate of inflation.

“They’re extremely frustrated, and it’s making for some bad morale,” Branson said. “We negotiated this stuff, and they still don’t have their raise while state employees got a 4% raise.”

Trades employees who have gone on to retire in the time since will be ineligible for the money they rightfully earned, he said.

The delay comes just weeks before the unions’ annual election process to renew their status as required by Act 10. With no raise to show for the past year, Branson said it makes recertification more difficult, and he wonders if it’s intentional.

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