GTFs authorize strike vote; university preps for possibility

The Graduate Teaching Fellows Federation voted to authorize a strike after 10 months of contract negotiations.  The vote came a week after the union declared talks were at an impasse, and a strike could occur as early as late November.

Provost Frances Bronet shared regret  about the strike vote and assured campus that preparations are underway to continue classes and lab activities if a strike occurs.

“I am disappointed that GTFs who voted felt it necessary to take this step,” Bronet said. “The university has updated and expanded its offer throughout the bargaining process to address most of the GTFF's concerns. At the same time, we must treat other employee groups at UO fairly and equitably.”

Wages and paid leave are key unresolved issues according to the GTFF’s website. The union wants a 5.5 percent pay increase to minimum graduate teaching fellow salaries for this year and next year, and two weeks of paid medical and parental leave for each GTF annually.

The university’s most recent proposal included a mix of pay raise options, including increasing minimum GTF salaries by five percent in 2014 and four percent in 2015. The UO is also offering ways to maintain benefits and tuition waivers when graduate teaching fellows are facing challenges associated with extended medical and parental leave situations. No academic staff appointed at less than .5 FTE currently have access to paid long-term medical or parental leave and those that do access sick leave that has been accrued over time.

The university and the union must submit final offers to the state’s mediator on Oct. 27, which begins a 30-day cooling off period.  A strike could occur anytime following the 30-day period.

“We will submit our final offer and hope that it will be considered carefully for how it supports GTFs and their families," Bronet said.

To plan for the possibility of a strike, the university formed an Academic Continuity Team to consider how to continue meeting the needs of all students if a strike occurs. The team includes Academic Affairs, Registrar, Human Resources, Enterprise Risk Services, General Counsel, Research and Innovation and the College of Arts and Sciences.

Representatives of the team are meeting individually with department heads and in small groups to discuss possible alternative ways to continue academic activities if a strike occurs.

“It is important that departments have clear plans in place for covering teaching, research and administrative functions that may be impacted by a strike,” Doug Blandy, senior vice provost for Academic Affairs said. “Serving our students – undergraduate and graduate students – will continue to be our priority.”

Faculty and staff who supervise GTFs can learn more here about preparation.

--By Julie Brown, Public Affairs Communications