- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 15, 2015

PLAINFIELD, Vt. (AP) - Faculty and staff at a northeastern Vermont college have agreed to new contracts after nearly three years of often heated negotiations.

Goddard College said Tuesday both faculty and staff voted overwhelmingly in June in favor of the terms of the three-year contracts, The Times Argus reported (http://bit.ly/1La4rlp).

The contracts keep current health and dental benefits without premium share increases. They also increase the minimum wage from $9.15 to $11 an hour with a subsequent increase to $12 per hour starting July 2016. The contracts also restore salary pay cuts.

Goddard will suspend the retirement match plan for a period of 18 months and will revisit compensation options at the end of that period. The agreement also means job protection for the college’s grant-funded and seasonal workers, who are also now eligible for compensated sick time.

Discussions first began in 2013, but some employees said the school was using “anti-union rhetoric.”

Avram Patt, chairman of Goddard’s board of trustees and the school’s acting president in February 2014, wrote in an opinion piece that Goddard proposed to go to mediation in August 2013 since negotiations would be difficult. Union negotiators rejected the request.

Communications Manager Samantha Kolber says she believes the agreements are final and that the contracts signify a change toward a more unified climate at the college.

“What it really means is more of a climate of collaboration where the administration and the staff are able to work together to allow the staff to be more secure and have the tools they need to advocate for their position and for their compensation,” she said.

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Information from: The Times Argus, http://www.timesargus.com/

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