After five months of negotiations past the original deadline, the Graduate Assistants Union labor union and UF reached agreements on stipend raises Monday.
Bobby Mermer, GAU’s bargaining chair, said the contract felt like a triumph for GAU.
“I feel relieved,” he said. “I feel like everyone on the bargaining team deserves to take a nice long nap and bask in the victories that we won in these rounds of contract negotiations.”
The final stipend contract says graduate assistants on a .50 FTE, or full time equivalent, appointment will receive a minimum stipend of $16,000 if they work as nine-month employees and $21,333.33 minimum stipend if they work year-round.
Those on .25 FTE appointments will have a minimum stipend between $8,000 and $9,000 for 9-month appointments and $10,666.67 for 12-month appointments. Those on .33 FTE appointments will be paid $10,666.67 for 9-month appointments and $14,222.22 for 12-month appointments.
After an annual evaluation, graduate assistants will also be eligible for raises. The raise for January 1, 2018 is set at $550. For January 1, 2019, eligible graduate assistants will receive a $225 raise, according to the contract.
At negotiations on Monday, Bill Connellan, UF’s chief negotiator, said the raises graduate assistants will receive are going to be better than any other employee group on campus. He added that UF Police Department officers are the only other employees on campus that have multi-year raises in their contracts.
In prior negotiations, UF proposed allocating $1 million to raise stipends for graduate assistants during the 2018-19 year. Connellan announced on Monday that UF is taking that proposal off the table.
Connellan said he needs to meet with deans of the colleges at UF to determine how much funding the university is providing to raise stipends and how the money will be allocated.
Mermer said he was not disappointed that the $1 million proposal was taken out of the contract.
“The new initiative that the university wants to create is going to cost a lot more than $1 million,” he said. “Once they have the plan in place on how they want to spend the money they are going to invest in [graduate assistants], we will be coming back to the table to discuss it. We lost the language, but we are going to have to come back to the table to discuss it anyways, so we didn’t lose it substantively.”
After negotiations ended, Connellan said that he is pleased with the contract and the potential it has for the university.
“It’s a very good contract,” he said. “It gives us a chance to put the University of Florida on the map nationally in terms of being very competitive for the top students. And that’s very important for us.”
Both GAU and the Board of Trustees are required to go through the process of ratifying the contract, Connellan said. Though unsure of the date, Mermer said all gradate assistants will vote to ratify the contract by a simple majority. Connellan said he would be very surprised if anyone in GAU voted against the contract.
The Board of Trustees will vote at their Dec. 14 and Dec. 15 meetings, Connellan said.