WSU and union negotiators, representing the Washington Federation of State Employees, have been working nonstop on a contract the past few weeks, in an effort to meet a state deadline of Oct. 1. As of Aug. 3, both parties had tentatively agreed to 19 articles, including various kinds of leave and childcare, holidays, savings clause and polygraph testing.

Negotiations are part of a state personnel reform act approved by the 2002 Legislature to replace the 43-year-old civil service system. About 1,250 classified staff at WSU are represented by the WFSE.

On Aug. 5, WFSE put its wage package on the table — a package the WSU administration negotiators have called unrealistically expensive. The WFSE has requested across-the-board raises of 7.2 percent for fiscal year 2005 and 5.2 percent for 2006, which would cost the university more than $8 million.

The union said it is frustrated with administration negotiators’ focus on the contract’s format rather than its content, which WFSE said should come first. “Our team wants to move this process forward and feels we are wasting valuable time,” the union reported to members.

The administration negotiation team said it has been waiting on a response from the union to about 30 contract counter proposals that WSU gave WFSE in early June. Administration negotiators expressed concern that, with a state-imposed deadline of Oct. 1, the most difficult negotiations — on wages, overtime and union security — are yet to come.

Health-care benefits are to be negotiated between a team appointed by the governor and representatives from all state employee unions. Bargaining is set to take place Aug. 13 and 18 in Olympia. The figures agreed upon would then be inserted into all state contracts, including WSU’s. WSU employees planning to participate in those negotiations were Glenn Frye, labor relations officer for Human Resource Services, for the administration, and Doris Lohrey-Birch, senior secretary in entomology, for WFSE.

As of Aug. 3, the WSU parties had scheduled 18 more bargaining sessions for the month.

Meanwhile, the state is posting newly adopted civil service rules and accepting comments at http://hr.dop.wa.gov/hrreform/rules.htm