Earlier this month the GTFF and the UO came to an agreement on protections and economic measures in response to the pandemic. To get a more information and the bargaining the union did, I spoke to GTFF president Rajeev Ravisankar.
The top line point of agreement is an extension of their Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) for one year, meaning it will now expire June 15, 2023. With that extension comes a 3% increase to the floor of which stipends are calculated. Ravinskar, says the economic proposals were out of left field and the union would have rather dealt with them separately, but it was what was on the table. Among the other economic measures is an opportunity for extended funding for Graduate Employees (GEs) in PhD programs.
Coming to bargaining the union was focused on reaching and solidifying agreements with the administration over the changing working conditions. These include guaranteeing the university will communicate resumption plans to GEs, allowing workers to be change their work hours as some are staying in different time zones, and a memorandum around workplace safety around issues like how GEs can deal with non-compliance with face mask use.
If the GTFF did not receive an extension to their current CBA they would making taking initial steps this spring for bargaining a new contract. Ravisankar acknowledged that some would believe it would have been better to start building power for that option now. The optimistic view he expressed, and the current trajectory they are on now, is the letter of agreement gives workers a reprieve in a challenging period and gives GEs more time to prepare for next bargaining.
The university will say it needs that workers need to take financial trade-offs to create some stability for the university in these uncertain times. Ravisnkar says it is wrong to look to GEs, some of the lowest paid workers of the UO, to take pay cuts first instead of cutting pay of the administrators at the top. That is in fact an area where the UO is not putting focus on, just recently the university let the temporary administrative pay cuts lapse.