The Oregon University System reached a tentative agreement with the Service Employees International Union on Friday that includes a 6.2 percent cost-of-living increase over the next two years.




The contract will affect 200 employees at Southern Oregon University, but the financial impact is still unknown, said James Main, vice president of finance and administration at SOU.




"Our budget analyst will have to take a look at it and see what the settled increases will end up costing us," he said. "We may not even know that until February."




Despite SOU's recent $4 million budget deficit, Main said he was glad an agreement had been reached.




"The people that are covered by SEIU are important to the university and its operation, and they needed to be treated fairly," he said.




In addition to the cost-of-living raises, the lowest pay rates will be phased out over the next two years. The lowest monthly wage on current pay schedules is $1,371, said Rick Hampton, director of labor relations for Oregon University System. Although very few, if any, workers earned that little, the minimum earnings under the new contract will be $1,780 per month, he said.




"It's a pretty expensive agreement, and much of that cost comes out of the university's budget," Hampton said. "Certain things like salary increases don't come with any additional funding from the state."




Union representatives said this is the first agreement in several years to keep pace with inflation. The raises were necessary to attract and retain high-quality employees, they said.




"We're the nuts and bolts people that keep the doors open and the paper flowing and the students getting where they need to go," SEIU Bargaining Chair Michael Ellis said.




The contract still needs approval of SEIU's 3,800 Oregon University System members, and the bargaining team will recommend a yes vote.




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