The bargaining teams met on Thursday to discuss their interests and the articles to be opened. Each team is permitted to open up to four articles, with the possibility of additional articles being opened “by consultation” if both teams consent. At our previous meeting, the university team agreed to present first. They chose to open Article 28, health insurance, and the letter of agreement on tuition (specifically on Ecampus tuition).

 Our bargaining team was also planning to open Article 28, meaning that we had the opportunity to open an additional article. Following a brief caucus, the bargaining team presented our interest in opening four articles.

In Article 11, salary, we believe that employees deserve a living wage, and that their wages should be maintained with increases as the cost of basic needs rises.  Presently, employees who have higher living costs, such as childcare, are effectively penalized, and we’d like to see a solution that helps offset these costs. Moreover, salaries should reflect that graduate employees gain skills as they progress in their programs.

In Article 12, tuition waver, we seek to remove unfair financial burdens. Summer term fees are difficult for graduate employees as they are often paid less over that term, but receive no fee relief. Also, many employees are required to take classes over summer term as part of their program of study, but these employees are not given a tuition waiver if they are not on assistantship over Summer Term. We would also like to see tuition benefits extended to family members. For faculty, OSU has done a good job adapting the classical academic setting to the needs of people with families as academia opens up to a wider demographic; we would like to see similar developments for graduate employees.

At this point, we held a caucus with the audience. We considered either opening Article 10, work assignment, or Article 22, parking. Article 10 would offer more flexibility in the discussion of our appointment issues, for which we were planning to open Article 9, appointments. On the other hand, parking has come up as an issue more recently. The university has announced a new plan for campus parking effective Fall 2014, and we are concerned about the status of our parking benefits. After a lengthy discussion, the audience and bargaining team came out in favor of opening article 10.

Upon reconvening, we asked to open Article 22 by consultation (instead of using one of our four articles). The university team asked to discuss this internally before making a decision. Moving on, our team presented Articles 9 and 10 together. Both articles set deadlines for the university to notify people of their employment and work description. We find that many graduate employees must endeavor to secure their employment as each term closes. This is detrimental to the employees’ stress levels as well as the quality of their work output.

Though the university already opened Article 28, the bargaining team presented our interests in health care. We would like to see an improvement to the current 85% employer contribution to employee premiums, and believe that the 50% contribution to family coverage is still insufficient. Also, we see many issues in the way that the current plan is administrated, including the summer payment schedule, the enrollment deadlines, and the waivers for comparable insurance plans.

Following the presentation, the university team caucused. They decided to refuse the request to open Article 22 via consultation, adding the possibility of talking about parking later in this round of bargaining if a policy was finalized before we finished. They also brought up the possibility of impact bargaining over the issue at a later date.

The teams wrapped up the session by setting the agenda for the next session, Thursday March 20. Depending on the availability of presenters, the bargaining teams will either discuss Ecampus tuition and fees or Articles 9 and 10.

Update: The agenda has been finalized for Thursday 3/20, and we’ll be discussing Ecampus tuition & fees.

 

[Post by Thomas Morrill]

 

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