PITTSBURGH (KDKA) - Duquesne University is without most of its police force as more than two dozen officers went on strike after contract negotiations failed.
Their union representatives said they're concerned about safety on campus, but they were left with no choice.
Twenty-eight Duquesne University police officers and security guards hit the picket line at 7 a.m. Monday. They blared police sirens with "on strike" signs in hand.
On Sunday night,between the officers' union, Teamsters Local 249, and the university once again. The union has had 19 bargaining sessions since the contract expired in October.
"The decision to strike was not on these men and women, it was the lack of negotiation of this university. We're heartbroken of the conduct of this university," said Darrin Kelly, president of the Allegheny/Fayette Labor Council.
"We're not going anywhere, we're in this fight because we know what these officers deserve. This day and age, these police officers, they go out and risk their lives every day," said Keith Frank, vice president of Teamsters Local 249.
Frank said the biggest items they're fighting for include retirement and healthcare. He said the university is trying to strip away the Teamsters health care, which for years they bargained for.
"All we're looking for is to maintain the conditions we have and the retirement, health care, and we want to improve our lives with the pay. We're not the highest paid, like they like to tell you. We're below the standards with other university police and they want to take our pension and they want to take our health care away. We're not going to allow it," Frank said.
Now that officers are on strike, there are major safety concerns.
Gabriel Welsch, executive vice president of marketing and communications at Duquesne University, told KDKA-TV the police chief has robust plans to ensure safety and help maintain normal activities on campus but didn't provide any specifics.
"This isn't the greatest area, so safety is our number one concern. We can't believe that we go back to the table, we offer to go back to the table and in good faith and they don't change their offer one bit. That tells me they are not concerned about student safety," Frank said.
Welsch said in part that the university has participated in good faith contract negotiations since August and they remain committed to the negotiation process with commitment to reach a resolution with the union.
"We're not going back to the table for the same old song and dance. They need to come to the table; they need to come to the table with some serious offer and understand that they're putting these students in danger. Not the Teamsters," Frank said.
Frank said they'll be out at different locations around campus all day until the university negotiates in good faith.
On Sunday night, the university spokesperson also said in part, "We have appreciated their willingness to talk through offers and scenarios during that time. In addition to several tentative agreements reached with the committee that would enhance working conditions, Duquesne also recently presented an offer that included the highest guaranteed wage increases since the 2001-2006 contract. The University's total compensation package offered most recently to our police officers and security guards is among the most generous in higher education in our region and includes other significant compensation and incentives."
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