The Montana Public Employees Association reached a tentative agreement Wednesday with the commissioner of higher education to increase staff pay.
Several University of Montana employees, who are members of the MPEA, would receive pay raises starting Oct. 1.
“For me, with a young family, it will actually make a big difference,” said Natalie Hiller-Claridge, the vice president of the University’s staff senate. “I’m just happy to see that it went through.”
Kevin McRae, the associate commissioner for communications and human resources, said this agreement includes a 46-cent per hour base pay increase for classified University of Montana staff.
Classified staff will also earn a 12-cent base pay increase on top of a 2.25 percent earning next year.
Hiller-Claridge said a classified employee pays dues to union members of MPEA.
Non-union professional staff will receive news of their wage changes later on this year.
The commissioner’s office informed MPEA on Friday of their agreement to raise classified employee wages. MPEA’s bargaining team sent the tentative agreement out for members to ratify. If ratified, it will be sent to the regents for approval.
Employers will also be required to further contribute to their employees’ health insurance, though exact amounts have yet to be released.
Darlene Samson, the ex officio president of the staff senate at UM, said the deal could have been better.
“In the scheme of things, what we were hoping for was a 4-5 percent increase,” she said. Samson went on to explain why they wanted more.
“Personally, I think any raise is good, but, in light of economics, you can’t buy a loaf of bread for 46 cents, and you can’t buy a carton of milk for 46 cents.”
Hiller-Claridge was a bit more optimistic about the deal, explaining that this not only would help in terms of income but also diminish the wage gap between those with lower wages and the administration.
“I think it will make it more equitable across the board,” Hiller-Claridge said.
During a poll conducted by the MPEA last year, more than 30 percent of union staff members worked more than one job. Samson said it was for this reason that the MPEA pushed for changes in wage legislation last year.
Though some may have wished the wage increase to be higher, Hiller-Claridge was just happy to have any increased wages at all.