After nearly two months of waiting, UF and the Graduate Assistants United labor union met to discuss raises.
Stipend raises are the final piece of GAU’s three-year contract, which has yet to be settled. The initial deadline for the contract was in June, but negotiations were extended when UF gave a “place-holder” offer without finalized numbers, according to Alligator archives.
Bill Connellan, UF’s chief negotiator, said UF gave time for each department to look into what comparable universities pay and then submit a payment request.
In the counterproposal presented Tuesday afternoon, UF offered lower stipend raises than GAU asked for but offered an additional $1 million to be split among departments. The $1 million would only be available in Fall 2018, Connellan said.
“There’s a feeling among the president and the provost that they want to continue to escalate where we are in terms of grad students,” Connellan said.
Paul Duncan, the graduate school’s senior associate dean, said the $1 million would help them bring in top candidates.
“I don’t think there’s anything magic about it,” he said. “A place like this needs to be competing head-to-head with our peer institutions, and one of the ways we can beat them is by how we pay our graduate students.”
Bobby Mermer, GAU’s bargaining chair, said the $1 million is a red herring meant to distract the union from what they need — tangible stipend raises.
“This million dollars they offered is not going to be benefiting any current employees,” he said. “None of us see a dime of this extra million dollars.”
Mermer said he was disappointed with the offer and felt UF went back on their word. He said in previous discussions GAU was told it would get an offer at least equal to, if not higher than, what they proposed.
GAU proposed a $800 stipend raise and a $16,000 minimum salary. On Tuesday, UF countered with a $550 raise and a $15,000 minimum salary, but said the divided $1 million makes their proposal better than GAU’s request. Mermer said he doesn’t feel UF’s offer is actually better.
During the meeting, Mermer expressed concern the $1 million would be unevenly divided, with some departments getting the largest chunk of the money. He said he couldn’t sign off on the agreement without more information on the divisions. He expects to have a counteroffer ready Friday.
“We were promised an offer that was going to be at least as good as ours,” Mermer said. “And that did not come to fruition.”