NMU Board of Trustees approves labor contract

MARQUETTE — The Northern Michigan University Board of Trustees voted unanimously to approve a three-year labor contract with the university’s technical and office professionals, or TOPs, at a special meeting on Wednesday.

The 134 TOPs employees, members of the United Auto Workers Local 1950, ratified the agreement — with 63 percent voting to approve, according to an NMU press release.

NMU Vice President for Finance and Administration Gavin Leach said most of the modifications to the contract, which became effective Saturday and runs through June 30, 2020, were geared toward clarification.

“We went through a number of issues in the contract, and of course wages are part of those issues,” Leach said. “But then there is also work on trying to clean up some language in the contracts.”

Leach said the contract included a wage increase of about 2 percent per year over the next three years.

“As far as adjusting the overall scale to the 2 percent a year, we felt that was reasonable and consistent with the other groups that we’ve done on campus,” Leach said.

NMU Director of Human Resources Rhea Dever said overall, negotiations with TOPs were positive.

“So much of the contract language that was changed was changes to reflect current policy and process; there was not a lot of substantive changes, it was more clarification,” Dever said. “The biggest piece typically in any contract is the wage piece, so the wage piece from a contract language standpoint was the most substantive thing that did change.”

Terms include base increases of 30 cents per hour for each of the three years, and 20-cent raises in the minimum and maximum hourly wages of the salary schedule each year of the contract.

Another element of the contract that changed, Leach said, is an enrollment incentive for fiscal year 2019 and fiscal year 2020 tied to specific growth in student enrollment. Leach added that 100 percent of the employment contracts have an incentive for an increase in enrollment.

“With our focus on enrollment, gaining enrollment at the university,” Leach said. “Just having a one-time bonus to achieve that growth — clarifying what that growth would be, which is our on-campus as opposed to our global campus and our middle college.”

NMU President Fritz Erickson said the TOPs employees are often the first employees to interact with incoming students and their families.

“We are going through orientation right now, and one of the things that happens during orientation as well as Wildcat weekend … is all the interchanges with students coming in is the department secretaries are one of the most key points of contact that we have with students and their families,” Erickson said. “It’s not uncommon for parents to come up and talk to me and talk about how well treated they are and they get their questions answered — the fact that really extends to all of the staff and all of the faculty.”

Lisa Bowers can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242. Her email address is lbowers@miningjournal.net.