GTFF Bargaining: Information and Updates

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 uoelr@uoregon.edu.

Update: October 29, 2019

The University of Oregon and the Graduate Teaching Fellows Federation (GTFF), representing graduate employees (GEs), have reached a tentative agreement on a new contract. The GTFF will take the tentative agreement to its membership within the next two weeks.

The new contract invests financially to maintain graduate programs that are successful and competitive now and in the future. The agreement includes many changes that reflect the parties shared interests related to diversity and inclusion, summer employment for GEs, and support for GEs with family.

Update: October 25, 2019

The UO and GTFF bargaining teams have issued the following joint statement:

Dear Colleagues,

We had the most productive meeting that we have ever had bargaining late into the evening. Both sides heard each other’s interest and the biggest point of difference, health insurance, has been tentatively resolved pending reaching agreement on a full package. The parties hope to complete work on the agreement when they meet again on Tuesday.

Sincerely,

Missy Matella and Peter Fehrs
UO Negotiators

Mike Magee and Michael Marchman
GTFF Negotiators

Update: October 22, 2019

The university and GTFF met in a mediation session last Friday in ongoing efforts to reach a settlement. The session was focused on contributions to health insurance.

The university is seeking an agreement that continues to invest in GE healthcare by increasing funding each year of the contract while also incentivizing the GTFF Trust to manage future premium increases.

At the mediation session, the university doubled its last offer to cover increases to health insurance premiums and agreed to a framework proposed by the union, which establishes both an incentive for keeping premium increases low and a cost-sharing schedule as premium increases rise. This proposal, using the GTFF framework, maintains access to affordable, quality healthcare while at the same time providing an opportunity for the GTFF to choose to further increase GE compensation during the term of the contract.

The university’s latest offer proposes the following:

  • When annual premium increases are below 4%, the university contributes saved dollars to GE salaries and/or to an assistance fund to help individuals impacted by increased medical costs. The money is applied at the GTFF Trust’s discretion.
  • The university continues to contribute 95% of premium costs up to 4% above the current contracted rate. For increases above 4%, the university would cost-share premiums as the GTFF incrementally assumes financial responsibility beyond their current 5%.

Given the GTFF Trust’s current premium discounts available through their insurance company and its approximate $500,000 cash reserve, UO’s proposal allows GEs to maintain their existing benefits for the first year of the contract and provides them time to evaluate benefit options for subsequent years based on the incentive and cost-sharing framework they have proposed. A comparison of GEs health insurance to other UO employees is available on the health plans comparison chart.

The union’s counteroffer to the university’s proposal maintains a 95/5 percentage split for health insurance increases up to 9%, with the university continuing to share in the cost of health insurance at incrementally lower rates from 9% to 11%. For increases that exceed 11%, the parties would split the amount 50/50. The union proposed similar incentives to the UO offer (salary and an assistance fund) when premium increases are 5% or less.

The GTFF membership voted to authorize a strike on October 18. The soonest the union can lawfully strike after giving the university a required 10-day strike notice is Sunday, November 3. Should the strike occur, it would likely begin the following Monday, November 4. The university is working to ensure academic and research continuity and has plans to maintain teaching and essential research operations with as little disruption as possible. Mediation will continue with the next session scheduled for October 25. In the meantime, the university will continue to prepare for the possibility of a strike.

Update: October 10, 2019

Following the submission of latest offers, the university and GTFF met in a mediation session on Tuesday in ongoing efforts to reach a settlement. While no new proposals were exchanged, there was meaningful discussion as the parties looked for common ground to find a path to settlement. Mediation will continue during the cooling-off period, and it is expected that new proposals will be shared in upcoming sessions. The parties will meet again on October 18.

The union has informed the university that they are holding a strike vote next week before the next mediation. While we remain hopeful that we will reach agreement, the university continues to plan for the possibility of a strike, which could occur on November 3 at the earliest.

The Office of the Provost and the Office of the Vice President for Research and Innovation (VPRI), working in close collaboration with Employee and Labor Relations (ELR), have met with and will continue to meet with units over the next several weeks to engage in strike planning in our efforts to maintain continuity and minimize disruption to academics and research.

Deans, Associate Deans, and Directors of Centers, Institutes, and Core Facilities will be completing an assessment tool that helps analyze academic impact and identify critical administrative and research functions. This information will inform the planning process as we determine the steps necessary to sustain the university’s mission-critical operations and essential services during a strike.

Guidance and resources for campus continuity are available on the GTFF Bargaining—Administrative Guidance webpage.

Update: October 3, 2019

The university submitted its latest offer in its efforts to reach a contract settlement with GTFF. An overview of the offer is provided above. Details of the offer are provided on the UO Latest Offer webpage .

Mediation will continue during the cooling off period with the next session scheduled for October 8.

Update: September 27, 2019

Following several months in mediation, the GTFF declared impasse on September 26. Following the statutory periods for negotiations and mediation, impasse is the next step in the bargaining process to establish a new collective bargaining agreement between the university and GTFF. The parties will submit final offers within the next seven days, and then a thirty-day cooling off period will begin.

Details of the university’s final offer will be provided as soon as it is available.

Mediation will continue during the cooling off period with the next session scheduled for October 8.

Update: August 26, 2019

The university mediated with the Graduate Teaching Fellow Federation (GTFF) on August 21. While the two sides did not reach agreement, both parties are working hard to try to address basic needs for graduate employees. Below are the latest university offers related to diversity, inclusion, summer support, and supporting students with families:

Family and childcare support
The university is proposing to invest resources to support graduate employees with family and childcare needs in the following way:

  • increase the assistance fund for childcare from $575 to $700
  • increase access to the assistance fund for childcare by extending age limit of the child from 18 months to five years and allowing one use per year instead of per child
  • provide six weeks of paid family leave
  • continue funding a GE position to support graduate families

Workplace discrimination prevention
The two sides have reached agreement on a proposal presented by the GTFF that promotes diversity and aligns with the university’s commitment to inclusion. In the new contract, UO will invest in a pilot project that creates a diversity graduate employee position to develop and maintain resources for underrepresented graduate students.
We have committed to annual trainings with departments to discuss policies related to discrimination and other inclusive workplace behaviors.

Workplace accommodation
The two sides are nearing agreement on contract language that addresses disability access and clearly defines the accommodations process.

Promoting summer hiring
The university is proposing a new summer GE position article, which is a proposal designed to encourage hiring over the summer by allowing certain positions to be offered without a tuition waiver. Based on faculty feedback, we believe this would encourage GE hiring over the summer, a win for our faculty and our graduate students.

At the last mediation session, the GTFF presented an economic proposal that brings the two sides closer together on salary. However, the parties are still far apart on issues such health insurance, and summer and international graduate employee support. The university responded with a proposal to increase salary and health insurance support. In settling on a new contract with the GTFF, we hope to pave a path to containing health insurance costs so that we can increase GE compensation as we look to attract and retain GEs now and in the future.

A detailed chart comparing current proposals is available on the HR website. Here is a summary of the latest economic offers from both sides:

Latest salary and health insurance offers:

SALARY

GTTF Offer:

  • 4% increase to GE salary minimums each year of the contract.
  • The previous proposal was 5.75%.

UO Offer:

  • 1.85% increase to all GE salaries each year of the contract.
  • Previously, 1.65% in year one and two, and 1.75% in year three.

Other employee group salary increases

  • Service Employee International Union (SEIU): 1%
  • Faculty—TTF: 1.25% across-the-board + .75% equity pool
  • Faculty—NTTF: 2% across-the-board
  • Officers of Administration: 2% merit pool

HEALTH INSURANCE

GTFF Offer:
University pays 95% (previously 100%) of health care premiums for the academic year and the summer to the extent health care premiums increase between 0 and 9.9% (Currently, UO pays 95% for the academic year and 80% over the summer.).

The proposal also includes a tiered cost sharing model based on the size of premium increases.

UO Offer:
In a mediation proposal, which expires on September 13, UO offered a counter to the GTFF cost sharing model that increased funding for GE insurance in FY 19-20 and incentivizes the GTFF insurance trust to implement reasonable cost containment measures over the term of the contract.

The next mediation session will be on September 16.

Update: August 13, 2019

On August 1st, the university again mediated with the Graduate Teaching Fellow Federation (GTFF). While both parties passed important economic offers, the most significant change is the university is no longer seeking to shift compensation from health insurance to increase take home pay.

AAU peer analysis has shown that the UO spends nearly twice the average of public AAU institutions on health insurance coverage, but slightly less, on average, on graduate employee stipends. The UO had been looking to re-balance the GE compensation package by shifting some of the investment in health insurance into student stipends. This would give GEs more salary and help the university be more competitive in attracting graduate students. However, it has become clear through negotiations that this concept is not one that the two parties can agree upon.

Latest salary and health insurance offers:

SALARY

GTTF Offer:
Increases GE salary minimums by 5.75% each year of the contract.
The previous proposal was 6%.

UO Offer:
Increase salaries of GEs each year of the contract:

  • Year one: 1.65% (up from 1.45%)
  • Year two: 1.65% (up from 1.55%)
  • Year three: 1.75% (up from 1.65%)

Other employee group salary increases

  • Service Employee International Union (SEIU): 1%
  • Faculty—TTF: 1.25% across-the-board + .75% equity pool
  • Faculty—NTTF: 2% across-the-board
  • Officers of Administration: 2% merit pool

HEALTH INSURANCE

GTFF Offer:
University pays 100% of health care premiums for the academic year and the summer to the extent health care premiums increase between 0 and 9.9% (increases for next academic year are currently projected at 7%).
Currently 95% for the academic year and 80% over the summer.

The proposal also includes a tiered cost sharing model based on the size of premium increases.

UO Offer:
The university is no longer pursuing a reduction in its contribution to health insurance in order to increase salaries.

The latest offer provides the same level of contribution under the current contract, which is 95% of the 2018-19 academic year insurance premiums.

The university and GTFF bargaining teams exchanged proposals on other key issues including summer support and family and childcare support. A detailed chart comparing current proposals is available on the HR website.

The next mediation session will be on August 21.

Update: July 26, 2019

On July 18, the university’s bargaining team had another mediation session with the Graduate Teaching Fellow Federation (GTFF).  UO offered an updated economic proposal that reflected some of the priorities and interests expressed by faculty, while also addressing priorities expressed by the GTFF bargaining team. In response to the GTFF’s latest proposal, the university presented the following updated economic proposal:

Summer employment opportunities
UO proposed a GE position specific to the summer term that does not require course enrollment. The position would not include tuition or fee remission. This new position type would allow departments to hire more GEs in summer without incurring additional tuition and fees costs while also creating more income-earning employment opportunities for graduate students.

Salary
UO proposed larger salary increase percentages for all graduate employees in each year of the contract—Year one: 1.45% (up from 1.25%); Year two: 1.55% (up from 1.25%); Year three: 1.65% (up from 1.25%).

For comparison purposes, other employee groups received the following annual salary increases:

  • Service Employee International Union (SEIU) employees: 1%
  • Faculty: 1.25% across-the-board + .75% equity pool for TTF; 2% across the board for NTTF 
  • Officers of Administration: 2% merit pool

In addition to salary increases, UO proposed providing each GE with $317 at the start of the fall term to facilitate changes to the fee structure and to offset the reduced contribution to health insurance.

Health Insurance
UO proposed a contribution towards health insurance of $1,729 per GE per term (up from $1,620). For GTFF’s offer regarding self-funding health insurance, the UO proposed creating an advisory committee, equally representing both parties, to review and provide a recommendation with a goal of establishing a self-funded health plan in the second year of the contract should it be determined to be a viable option by the committee, the university, and the GTFF

Family and Childcare Support
The university continues to demonstrate its support for graduate employees with family and childcare needs. At the most recent mediation session, we reasserted our offers to:

  • increase the hardship fund for childcare from $575 to $700
  • provide paid family leave
  • continue funding a GE position to support graduate families

While the two bargaining teams engaged in ongoing discussions and many questions were answered, the GTFF did not complete a counter offer before the mediation session ended. The next mediation session will be on August 1.

Update: June 25, 2019

At the June 19 mediation session, we reached agreement on a proposal presented by the GTFF that aligns with the university’s commitment and promotes diversity and inclusion. In the new contract, UO will invest in a pilot project that creates a diversity graduate employee position to develop resources for underrepresented graduate students and maintain a website that consolidates information on university resources related to families, LGBTQIA+, international issues, mental health, survivor support and accessible education.

The GTFF presented an updated economic proposal with the following terms:

  • Salary increases of 6% each year of the contract. The previous proposal was for 6.75% in the first year, 7.75% in the second, and 8.75% in the third.
  • University-provided childcare, subsidized to ensure costs don’t exceed 15% of the lowest GE salary, and an additional subsidy provided for those who cannot access university childcare.
  • Move from the university paying 100% insurance premium coverage to current contract rate of 95% with the difference between the 100% and 95% premium cost, estimated at $390,000 annually, be used for new proposal on summer and international GE support.
  • New proposal on summer and international GE support asks for the money (as described above) to provide targeted summer support for international GEs.
  • Withdrawal of proposed summer hardship fund and international GE travel reimbursement contingent on accepting new summer support proposal.
  • Letter of agreement to move to a self-funded health insurance plan by the end of the new contract’s expiration date.
  • The university is working to put together an economic counter-offer for our next mediation session. As the bargaining team constructs a counter-offer, it is important to keep in mind how far apart the two parties remain. The differences are illustrated by the salary proposals.

The UO’s current GE salary increase offer is 1.25% while the GTFF’s latest proposal is 6%. For comparison purposes, the most recent annual salary increases that were provided to other employee groups were the following:

  • Service Employee International Union (SEIU) employees: 1%
  • Faculty: 1.25% across-the-board + .75% equity pool for TTF; 2% across the board for NTTF
  • Officers of Administration: 2% merit pool

Mediation sessions will continue over the summer with dates set for July 18 and August 1.

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.