The last union without a contract is optimistic that an agreement can be worked out.

LEWISTON – The union representing University of Maine System faculty has reached a tentative contract deal.

Only the union representing the system’s support staff now is without a contract.

If the faculty contract is ratified, members will get a salary increase that’s slightly above the cost of living but they’ll also have to absorb a 12.5 percent increase in their health insurance cost, said Jim McClymer, an associate physics professor at the University of Maine and negotiating chairman for the Associated Faculties of the University of Maine System.

Before the agreement can be finalized, it must be approved by the system’s trustees at a Sept. 11 meeting then ratified by union members.

Negotiations have been contentious for more than a year. The unions’ contract expired last summer.

In August, AFUM joined with the university support staff’s union to file a complaint with the Maine Labor Relations Board accusing the university of “unethical and illegal conduct” in its contract negotiations.

McClymer said he was glad the dispute is over.

“Together we can do a lot more than we can fighting each other,” he said.

Jim Bradley, president of the university system’s associated, clerical, office, laboratory and technical staff union ACSUM, said his members will meet with the university next week. He’s hopeful a deal can be reached.

“We could probably agree to a tentative deal if we’re offered something similar to the faculty,” said Bradley, who works at Lewiston-Auburn College and is a candidate for the Maine House of Representatives.

Otherwise, he said, the negotiations and complaint before the Labor Relations Board will go forward.

“I am cautiously optimistic that we may be near a settlement so that we can all get back to focusing our energies on providing the best services to our students,” Bradley said.

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