After a productive bargaining session on Wednesday, our Thursday session was less exciting. We began by recapping the current status on economic proposals; OSU was not able to bring back an immediate response from their administration. They did, however, demonstrate that they understand the outstanding items we are still pushing for: a 3% increase to OSU’s proposed minimum salary for the next 3 years; dependent and partner health insurance contributions from OSU; and an emphasis on the structure of fee coverage, even though we are largely agreeable to getting rid of the $300/term differential payment in exchange for OSU directly covering 85% of mandatory fee costs.

We continued some (confusing) discussion regarding how OSU costs out the increases to the minimum salary. They estimated moving the minimum salary to $3350 next year would cost about $60k, while increasing to our proposed $3543 would be closer to $130k. These numbers agree with our estimates. Somehow, however, they estimated raising the minimum in stages would cost more, specifically $185k in 2013 when the minimum salary would move to about $3450. Obviously, the cost of an intermediate increase should be somewhere between $60k and $130k total, so OSU’s cost estimate has some kinks to work out. What is important about this, however, is that it indicates there should be some flexibility in OSU’s budgeting. We hope when OSU makes more accurate cost estimates they find room to make some movement on issues like dependent health insurance.

The rest of the bargaining session returned to non-economic issues. CGE’s team presented concerns about adequate work space. Specifically, many TAs and RAs do not have access to secure places to store confidential materials, personal belongings, and to meet with students. OSU seemed receptive to these concerns and were surprised that our issues were actually very real concerns, not just asking for more square footage of desk space! Hopefully the gravity of these very basic concerns will lead OSU to put more specific language regarding “adequate work space” into our contract.

We also asked to put more specific details into letters of appointment, specifically explicitly stating what the required amount of work is for a given FTE, and also to identify possible routes someone could take if they feel their workload is out of line with their appointment. We explained that a formal grievance, though an important protection, is often a risk a graduate employee is not eager to take. We would also like to see a system set up where concerns could be made anonymously, perhaps through the new Ombuds position at OSU, and departments with lots of complaints could be addressed by OSU and CGE without the burden being on individual employees.  OSU did not seem especially receptive on first blush, saying the letters are already thick and proposed instead putting that information on a website.

Finally, we began discussing a number of issues on union rights, but were not able to finish the conversation before our time ran out. More on this next week!

Our next bargaining session will be Tuesday June 12 from 11am-3pm in Westminster House. OSU said they hope to bring a response to economic proposals, potentially making this a very important meeting.