University revises GTF proposals and prepares for possibilities

September 29, 2014 - 6:00am

The University of Oregon recently revised its previous proposals relating to health insurance, salary and absences as part of the contract negotiations with the Graduate Teaching Fellows Federation. The new proposed provisions would increase the graduate teaching fellow’s total compensation package, which, as of last academic year, was valued between $31,025 and $56,466 for part-time employment.

“The UO proposed a new health insurance provision that reflects the UO’s deep commitment to GTFs and their families,” said Andy Berglund, interim dean of the Graduate School, in a message on the Graduate School website.

The UO agreed to continue paying 95 percent of the insurance premiums for graduate teaching fellows and their family members and to absorb any increases in premiums that may occur next year. The GTFs' insurance plan includes significant increases in vision and dental coverage, which have already taken effect as of Sept. 16.

“The UO’s current insurance offer is as good, if not better, than any of its comparator universities,” said Berglund.  A chart provides a detailed comparison.

Regarding salary, the UO proposed two options: Across the board increases in minimum salaries of 5 percent in year one and 4 percent in year two for all three GTF levels; or 6.1 percent salary increases for level 1 GTFs in each of the next two years and 3 percent salary increases for levels 2 and 3 over the same time period. 

UO’s offer represents the biggest biennial increase in GTF minimum salaries since the 2006-07 contract and is responsive to the GTFF’s interest in further reducing the students’ reliance on financial aid. In addition, nothing in the proposal prohibits departments from paying above the minimum set in the contract. Last year 68 percent of GTFs were paid above minimum levels.

The UO is also offering solutions to maintain insurance benefits and tuition waivers when graduate teaching fellows encounter challenges associated with extended medical and parental leave situations.  For years, the UO’s departments have worked with GTFs individually to address leave needs, and the current proposal formalizes these processes for helping GTFs and their families.

“These significant commitments reflect the UO’s value for equitable practices and for flexibility for individual situations that challenge a student’s ability to balance school, work and life,” said Berglund.

University and union teams participated in mediation sessions over the summer. At this time, neither party has declared impasse.  The GTFF has scheduled an Oct. 3 membership meeting. 

In the spring, the GTFF indicated its membership may strike if agreement is not reached on the 2014-16 contract.  The university has started planning for that possibility, and has information that may be helpful to supervisors, faculty and staff if it becomes necessary to continue the teaching and research efforts for a portion of fall term without GTFs.

-- By Julie Brown, Public Affairs Communications