The University of Oregon and the Graduate Teaching Fellow Federation (GTFF) began the collective bargaining process for a new contract in November of 2018. Negotiations are expected to continue into the spring term. The current three-year contract expired on March 31, 2019. The university will continue to honor the expired contract until a new one is in place.
GTFF represents graduate employees. Graduate employees are graduate students who work part-time performing teaching and teaching-related duties, research duties, and/or administrative duties. In the fall term of 2018, there were 1,487 graduate employees working for the university. The overview of graduate student employment provides more information.
Bargaining moves to mediation
Over the last several months, the GTFF bargaining team and the university bargaining team have presented proposals and reviewed counter proposals in hopes of reaching a new agreement. Since they remain far apart on several issues, both teams have formally requested mediation from the State of Oregon Employment Relations Board. Mediation is the next step in the process and is a valuable tool during these negotiations. Mediation began on April 26.
The university greatly values graduate employees and the critical work they do supporting academic and research pursuits. It is our goal to maintain graduate programs that are successful and competitive now and in the future.
University negotiations with the Graduate Teaching Fellow Federation (GTFF) is based on the following:
- Commitment of good faith
Work in good faith throughout the negotiation process to achieve an agreement that best meets the needs of our graduate employees, our faculty, and the entire university.
Provide factual information and periodic updates to keep key stakeholders apprised, engaged, and informed.
- Competitive compensation package
Seek a competitive compensation package that attracts and retains top talent in our graduate programs.
- Long-term success of graduate programs
Support the long-term goal of maintaining and improving our top-tier graduate programs so they are successful and competitive now and going forward.
- Responsible stewardship of public funds and tuition dollars
Be good stewards of tuition and taxpayer dollars by allocating resources responsibly.
The university is seeking a compensation package for graduate employees that is competitive with its peers in the Association of American Universities (AAU) by focusing on two key elements: salary and benefits. The university's proposal would increase minimum salaries, putting average GE salaries ahead of AAU peers, while still preserving health benefits and a fee structure that is more generous on average than peer institutions. It would do so by transferring some money currently going to health benefits and fee waivers and apply that money to salaries. The proposal summary provides more detail about the initial compensation package proposed by the university in comparison to AAU peers. Here is an overview:
- An increase in salary for all graduate employees
Increase salary in the first year using new money and money transferred from health insurance and fees
- A change in tuition fees to align with AAU peer institutes
Increase in fees that is offset by salary increase
- A reduction in contribution to health insurance to align with AAU peer institutes
Transferring a portion of contributions to health insurance to salary, to increase take home pay
UO currently offers lower minimum salary than other AAU institutions. To offer higher salaries, the university is seeking to realign benefit offerings. The university's proposal would decrease the amount of money invested in health benefits and fee waivers and shift that money to salaries.
When viewed holistically, this proposal equates to 1% increase in the total compensation package – salary and benefits – for graduate employees during the 2019-20 academic calendar, which would be followed up with a 1.15% cost-of-living adjustment in the second year of the contract and 1.25% cost-of-living adjustment in the third.
GE Total Compensation
The university's economic proposal provides a total compensation package of $38,862 on average for each graduate employee who works 0.49 FTE. Total compensation includes full tuition, salary, payment for a majority of student fees, and health insurance. The overview of graduate student employment provides more information
The GTFF bargaining committee provided its proposal at the beginning of the negotiation process. Visit the GTFF website for more information about their proposal.
Keeping the campus community informed during on-going negotiations with the Graduate Teaching Fellows Federation is a priority. Questions and requests for additional information should be directed to the bargaining team in Employee and Labor Relations at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Update: June 6, 2019
At the mediation session on Friday, May 31, the university presented an updated economic proposal that includes:
- Additional salary increases for all GEs in the second and third year of the contract. The previous proposal offered a 1.0% salary increase each year. The new offer includes an increase of 1.15% in the second year and 1.25% in the third.
- Increase to the university’s contribution to GE health insurance from $1,350 per GE per term to $1,545 per GE per term (a reduction of $175 from the current cost to the university per GE per term).
As stated before, the university’s proposal is designed to provide graduate employees with a fair and equitable employment contract that is competitive with peers in the Association of American Universities (AAU). The UO currently offers lower stipends than other AAU institutions. To be more competitive, UO is proposing higher salaries by realigning benefit offerings. The university's proposal would decrease the amount of money invested in health benefits and fee waivers and shift that money to salaries.
Mediation will continue with two sessions scheduled in June.
Update: May 23, 2019
The UO and GTFF bargaining teams completed two days of mediation on Friday, May 3, and Friday, May 10. Although there have been no new developments to report or significant agreements reached, the parties have continued to exchange information related to their proposals in an effort to make progress.
Mediation will continue on Friday, May 31. Future dates will be added to the bargaining timeline below as they become available.
Update: April 19, 2019
The first mediation session has been scheduled for Friday, April 26. The university is hopeful that a third-party mediator can initiate new conversations and advance the negotiation process. A comparison chart provides a side-by-side summary of economic and non-economic proposals from both the GTFF and university.
The university’s proposal is designed to provide graduate employees with a fair and equitable employment contract that is competitive with peers in the Association of American Universities (AAU). The UO currently offers lower stipends than other AAU institutions. To be more competitive, UO is proposing higher salaries by realigning benefit offerings. The university's proposal would decrease the amount of money invested in health benefits and fee waivers and shift that money to salaries.
The current proposal increases the average salary of a graduate employee working three terms by $2,265, which would put the UO ahead of the AAU average. The minimum salary for new graduate employees would be 14.7% higher than it is today. The increase in the total compensation package including insurance, tuition waivers, and fees will be 1% of salary for all GE levels each year. By redistributing a share of benefits to salary, the salary increase will provide GEs with more choice in how best to use their pay.
With the proposed realignment of the contribution to benefits, the amount allocated to health insurance would still be nearly 50 percent higher in value than the support offered by AAU peers. It is important to note that the graduate employee trust has the autonomy to choose the health insurance package that makes the most sense for its members. The university is not involved in plan selection or plan design. The trust could choose to maintain current benefit levels. If it made that choice, members could pay for the difference in premiums with the increased salary provided by the institution.
HR will continue to provide updates during the mediation process as information becomes available.
Update: April 5, 2019
On Friday, April 5th, the university’s bargaining team presented the GTFF bargaining team with new information on the following topics:
Updated Economic Proposal
The university’s bargaining team presented an updated economic proposal that includes:
A 1.0% salary increase each year for three years. Unlike the current contract, this 1.0% would apply to all GE salaries, not just minimum salaries. The offer maintains a transfer of some money currently directed to health insurance and fees to provide an additional $2,088 to a GE’s salary in the first academic year of the contract. University fee coverage and health insurance still remain above our AAU peers.
The university’s bargaining team is committed to offering a fair economic package that is consistent with the university’s current economic situation.
The GTFF’s current economic proposal includes:
- 9.25% increases to minimum salaries each year for three years
- GEs who worked the academic year would receive $3,600 regardless of a summer work assignment
- GEs would not contribute to their student fees or health insurance
- International GEs would be eligible for $1,500 in airfare to attend the University and $1,500 each summer to fly to their country of origin and back to Eugene
- Twelve (12) weeks of paid leave
- University-provided childcare subsidized to ensure cost doesn’t exceed 15% of the lowest GE salary; subsidy provided for those who can’t use University childcare
- GEs eligible for six hours of paid training per term, either through additional pay or reduction in duties
According to the University’s costing model, the GTFF’s revised proposal would add $31.7 million over three years to the cost of the existing contract (an addition of around $10.5 million per year on a $36 million annual cost base). The GTFF’s opening proposal cost $35.9 million over the same time period.
Move to Mediation
Since the beginning of bargaining, we have stated that a third-party mediator would be a valuable tool during these negotiations. Consistent with that position, we have notified the GTFF bargaining team that next week we will formally request mediation from the State of Oregon Employment Relations Board. Mediation is the next step in the process to assist both parties in reaching a resolution and to achieve our collective goal of reaching an agreement. More information about mediation is available on the State of Oregon website.
The university and GTFF bargaining teams have been meeting regularly over the last few months. While we have made progress on non-economic issues, significant difference remains on economic issues presented in the university’s proposal and that of the GTFF. We are hopeful that a third-party mediator can initiate new conversations and advance the negotiation process. In the weeks ahead, both parties will work with the state to engage in the mediation process and establish a schedule for continued negotiations.
Although the GTFF collective bargaining agreement ended on March 31, the university will continue operating under the prior contract until a new contract is established, as is the case with any CBA negotiations.
Update: March 14, 2019
The university and GTFF bargaining committees continue to meet regularly to exchange information and offer counter proposals.
Both parties have presented proposals relating to graduate employee salaries and benefits, which has generated discussion beyond the bargaining table. The following information provides additional context for these issues:
- Health insurance proposal: the university is offering changes to health insurance that while decreasing the current funding level, would still provide benefits at a level that is 49% above its AAU peers. The university’s proposal also changes the current structure giving greater autonomy to the GTFF health and welfare trust so that it can select a plan that meets the needs of its members.
- Graduate employee salaries: In conjunction with the changes to the benefit structure, the university is offering to shift money from benefits and fees into salary. This would result in a $696 per term increase to the salaries of all GEs. Minimum salaries would also increase by 1%. In total, average salaries would increase by 11.8% under the university’s proposal.
Update: February 15, 2019
On February 15th, the University provided counterproposals to the GTFF covering several articles, including childcare and immigration. Specifically, the University offered to increase the amount from the Graduate Student Assistance Fund that graduate employees could draw to use for childcare. The University also agreed with Union-proposed language stating our shared values around immigration and immigration enforcement on campus.
November & December 2018
November: GTFF proposal presentation
December: Bargaining discussion
January 18: University proposal presentation
Bi-weekly bargaining sessions.
April 5: Bargaining session concluded with the decision to move to mediation.
April 26: First day of mediation
May 3: Mediation
May 10: Mediation
May 31: Mediation
June 7: Mediation
June 19: Mediation
Dates of future mediation sessions will be added as they become available.