The Graduate Assistants United labor union and UF failed to reach an agreement on raises for UF’s nearly 4,000 graduate assistants.
At Friday’s meeting negotiating stipend raises as part of GAU’s three-year contract, the union presented their counterproposal to UF’s proposed verbal contract, which they presented Aug. 22. The initial deadline for the contract was in June, according to Alligator archives.
UF proposed a $550 raise and $15,000 minimum salary for graduate assistants for the 2017-2018 year, a step down from GAU’s initially proposed $800 raise and $16,000 minimum salary. At the previous meeting, UF also offered $1 million for the 2018-2019 year to raise wages with the goal of attracting top graduate assistant candidates.
This $1 million is currently set to exclusively raise minimums for new graduate assistant recruits, said Bobby Mermer, GAU’s bargaining chair. At the previous meeting, he said the million was a “red herring” because it wouldn’t affect any current union members.
“When we bargain, we bargain for current employees, even though they benefit future employees as well,” Mermer said.
At the latest round of negotiations, GAU stuck to their initial proposal of an $800 stipend raise for this year.
Unlike previous years, the union and UF also negotiated next year’s contract, which was proposed by UF, said GAU Communications Chair Josh Papacek.
For the 2018-2019 year, GAU proposed a $625 raise beginning in August 2018. Papacek said it’s common to start with the larger raise and work down when negotiating a multiple-year package.
GAU accepted the language presented by UF regarding the $1 million and added it to their own counterproposal, but has yet to officially accept UF's proposal. At the Aug. 25 meeting, GAU again asked for further details on how this proposed $1 million would be allocated.
“We have been steadily working towards raising minimums,” Papacek said. “We did not believe that (UF’s proposed) raise was adequate.”
GAU also proposed a change in fee deferral for Summer A, B and C for 2018.
Instead of having graduate assistants non-tuition fees due on different dates for the three Summer terms, GAU has proposed for fees to be due on the same date, July 21, for all three terms.
Bill Connellan, UF’s chief negotiator, said he could not commit UF to agreeing to the fee deferral proposal because of state law and board of governors regulations.
“We cannot put (GAU’s Summer due date proposal) into writing and commit the university to violating state law,” Connellan said.
Connellan said it would take his team some time to look through GAU’s stipend proposal and calculate its total cost.
GAU and UF are set to continue negotiations Sept. 1, nearly three months after the contract’s original deadline.
This article has been updated to reflect GAU did not accept UF's proposal of $1 million, but rather accepted the language inserted into the article.