Comment on Provost Bronet’s email

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The blatant mischaracterization of gifting GTFs with a $61 student fee limit, tuition waiver and 95% health insurance coverage that has been emailed to the entire campus community is inappropriate and inaccurate. The benefits list are a part of the previous GTFF collective bargaining agreement.

  • Full tuition wavers were never up for bargaining, and are not something either side brought to the table at all. Tuition waivers for GTFs is a standard practice for universities across the country, have been in place at the University of Oregon for decades, and are a necessity for Universities to attract high quality graduate students.
  • The student fee limit and insurance coverage had to be fought to be maintained – not granted – during this bargaining cycle. For months, the administration pushed to remove these protections and shift the costs of them onto graduate employees. Taking credit for keeping benefits that the Administration had fought for months to take from GTFs is not a substantial package.

 

After a careful review of the Administration’s new proposal offering “flex-time” for GTFs, the Executive Council voted that this proposal does not address the needs of GTFs as expressed through our strike platform. The idea of “flex-time” was discussed during mediation last week, and a formal proposal was made by the University Administration this Monday. You can read the proposal language here.

The GTFF strike platform looks to guarantee no loss of wages for GTFs and that they will not be pressured to make up missed work in the event of medical hardship or added children to their family (for a maximum of 2 weeks in each case). These issues were made very explicit to the University Administration, and the “flex-time” proposal does not address them. There is no guarantee that GTFs will keep their wages. It does not even guarantee that GTFs can have access to “flex-time”. Section 6, item 6, specifically allows the Graduate School to help decide if “flex-time” is feasible for a GTF. Section 7 may grant GTFs a “right” to “flex-time”, but a GTF can only exercise that right if the Graduate School allows. At that point, the availability of “flex-time” for a GTF is at the discretion of the Graduate School – it is not a guarantee.

The “flex-time” proposal explicitly pressures GTFs to find time in the future to make up those hours. As many GTFs have single-term appointments, shifting time later into an appointment is exactly how GTFs already manage their time if they must miss work and not lose pay—generally by trading work duties with their fellow GTFs. The only change from the current situation would be to allow all GTFs to formally shift work into later quarters. It does nothing to help GTFs with single-term appointments or GTFs near the end of their appointments who unexpectedly need leave. They are in the same position they would be in under the current contract language. It does not benefit most GTFs in the Spring quarter, who are unsure if they have summer appointments until late in the Spring quarter. 60% of GTFs do not have appointments in the summer, and often must live on whatever savings they can accumulate during the academic year or on low paying summer jobs. The “flex-time” proposal would still allow for these GTFs to have their FTE reduced, or force them to squeeze work duties into later portions of the term. This is exactly the same situation that exists today – a situation GTFs have repeatedly voted as finding unacceptable. After discussing this proposal at length, the Executive Council decided that accepting this proposal would be a betrayal of their colleagues who have entrusted them to identify when proposals by the Administration adequately address their needs.

The Administration’s framing of the GTFF as unwilling to negotiate on leave is insulting to the hard work put in by our members and an explicit mischaracterization of the bargaining process. The GTFF has slashed their original proposal of six weeks each for medical and parental leave down to just two weeks each. The GTFF has dropped paid bereavement leave from their proposals entirely. The GTFF’s current proposal on leave require GTFs who miss work to make up the first week of leave; paid leave can occur only after that missed week first week and under advisement of a medical professional. The GTFF’s current proposal of paid leave for GTFs would cost the University just $52,000 annually, a cost that is more than affordable after years of multi-million dollar surpluses and a two-billion dollar fundraising drive currently underway. The GTFF has gone above and beyond to make our proposals fair, affordable, and beneficial to both GTFs and the University. The Administration has been unwilling to discuss the possibility of paid leave, under any system or name. They have just said “no”. This is clearly reflected in their “flex-time” proposal as it is not paid leave. The GTFF has always been open to discuss any ways to implement paid leave that can address the concerns of both parties, but we can no longer bargain the terms of paid leave by ourselves.

Paid leave is not a radical or unprecedented benefit at the University of Oregon. Classified staff, the members of SEIU, who work less than 0.5FTE do accrue paid leave – a fact made explicit to the GTFF via letter and told directly to President Coltrane during a University Senate meeting. SEIU leave is pro-rated, and thus different than the proposal put forth by the GTFF, but it is paid leave. Stating that no employees under 0.5FTE get paid leave is simply not true. Yes, no academic employees under 0.5 FTE have paid leave, but denying the dignity of personal health and a happy family to one group because you are also denying it to another is not an acceptable explanation for doing so. Attempts to pit one employee group against another will not breed animosity between groups. We stand together. We support each other in our times of need and we celebrate each others victories as victories for all of us. Attempts to divide us, and taking on unmoving positions to refuse policies that benefit both employees and the University, will only lead to friction between employees and the University Administration.