CORVALLIS - Oregon State University has reached a tentative labor agreement for the next four years with the Coalition of Graduate Employees, a union representing approximately 670 OSU graduate students.
The agreement, which must still be ratified by the union members and the Oregon University System, addresses such issues as student fees, "fair share" payments in lieu of union dues, additional payments to all graduate assistants, and release of certain information to the union about its members.
"This is a time when serious financial constraints have been imposed on higher education, and there were some complex legal issues to work through and other concerns," said David Shaw, associate director of the OSU Department of Human Resources. "So these were difficult negotiations to finalize. But both parties were committed to a fair and equitable agreement, which we believe we have achieved."
This is the second agreement OSU has reached with the Coalition of Graduate Employees, which was originally formed in 1999. OSU and the graduate employee union have been negotiating since Feb. 25 and the discussions went to mediation in early August. The agreement will affect all graduate students who have assistantships of at least .15 FTE, of which at least .1 FTE is for service to the university, usually in the form of teaching or research.
The agreement will last until June 30, 2008, although either party may "re-open" up to two articles of the contract in October, 2005.
"Given the difficult situation facing higher education in Oregon, OSU was charitable in providing the bonuses that were negotiated for graduate assistants," said Matthew Mahrt, president-elect of the Coalition of Graduate Employees. "This represents a major investment by the university. The biggest sticking point in the negotiation was the provision of information on bargaining unit members. In the end the method worked out by OSU represents an honest effort to address our union's concerns, in a way that we believe should still meet the need to comply with privacy laws."
The negotiated settlement included these terms:
- OSU will freeze program-related fees at current levels, at least until the "re-opener" process is completed. These are additional fees which some colleges or departments attach to specific educational programs.
- The union will hold an election, conducted by a neutral third party, to determine whether or not bargaining unit members who are not union members must make "fair share" payments to the union in lieu of dues.
- A combination of changes and modification of directory information have been agreed to that will give the union information it has requested on its bargaining unit members. In light of this agreement, the union will drop an unfair labor practice complaint it has filed.
- Graduate assistants will receive a $115 per-term payment for the 2004-05 academic year, starting this fall, that is similar to a one-time payment of $350 previously made to all classified employees at the university.
Although not officially part of these negotiations, OSU also recently reached an agreement with its graduate employees for a health insurance plan.