The Graduate Teaching Fellows Federation and the University of Oregon came to terms on a tentative agreement, ending more than a year of negotiations on terms meeting the needs of both sides.
The bargaining teams were able to find common ground in regard to a financial hardship fund accessible to all graduate students. The tentative agreement ends the strike with GTFs returning to work duties for the remainder of finals week.
“I want to thank the bargaining teams on both sides for working tirelessly and respectfully through many long months to reach this agreement,” interim UO President Scott Coltrane said. “Not only will this agreement meet the legitimate needs of graduate students during life’s most challenging and rewarding times in a fiscally responsible way, it also will help the University of Oregon meet its goal of attracting the best graduate students in the country.”
A key to the settlement was the university’s offer to create a graduate assistance fund and absences provision that address concerns about financial losses from medical and parental needs. The fund will include $50 per admitted and enrolled master’s and doctoral student. The fund will automatically carry over a certain amount from the previous year. Based on enrollment this fall, the fund would total approximately $150,000.
With the establishment of the fund, any graduate student facing financial hardship, whether a member of the union or not, can receive grants of up to $1,000 for serious medical issues and $1,500 for birth or adoption of a child. Students who meet the criteria can qualify for the fund two times over the course of a master’s student’s academic career, or six times over a doctoral student’s academic career. There is also an opportunity for students who have met these limits to petition for an exception.
The agreement also calls for guaranteed flex time for GTFs, allowing two weeks of family or medical leave with no loss of pay. GTFs would make up any lost time over three to nine months.
A contract ratification vote is expected by members of the union as a next step, followed by approval by the university president.
The university plans to implement other benefits in the tentative agreement, including a 10 percent pay increase over two years on minimum GTF salaries.
—By Julie Brown, Public Affairs Communications