Leaders at the University of Connecticut have agreed to give raises to members of one of the school’s largest unions.
Some lawmakers said it would be foolish to hand out pay increases while the state is trying to cut back, but others said this is the best deal the university can hope to get.
Amidst a difficult financial climate, UConn agreed to give raises to 1,900 non-teaching employees.
Members of the UConn Professional Employees Association would get increases between 3 percent and 4.5 percent over the next five years.
"The optics are bad. It’s such a difficult time. People in this building don't get how bad it is and they're walking around with rose colored glasses,” said State Senator Rob Kane, who believes the legislature should reject the agreement.
He said green lighting pay increases while the state deals with a massive deficit and proposed UConn tuition increases, would be irresponsible.
Others, like State Senator Beth Bye, said the deal makes sense if you dig deeper.
The workers agree to go from a 35 hour work week to a 40 hour work week, and Bye is adamant that if the legislature votes down the deal, the state will wind up paying more money if the contract goes to arbitration.
"This was the most fiscally responsible vote we could make because I believe the settlement is less than we would've gotten in any sort of arbitration,” Bye said.
UConn said most of the workers make between $40,000 and $70,000 per year.
The union includes positions like accountants, nurses, and receptionists.
Bye said the union has agreed to wage freezes four times in recent years, but Kane said supporting any raise now is the wrong path, and some taxpayers agree.
"I think people at UConn make enough money and we're in a budget crisis now,” said Mary Ellen Eldredge, of Mansfield.
However, students like Lauren Brown said she believes the state should support the agreement because the employees deserve it.
"It’s a little bit poor timing but you know raising wages isn't really a bad thing because you're helping a lot of people in the end,” Brown said.
The agreement calls for a 3 percent raise the first year, and 4.5 percent raise the next four.
The proposal is out of committee and a vote can be called at any time.
The extra money would come from UConn’s budget.
Copyright 2016 WFSB (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.