The UI and representatives of the Graduate Employees Organization reached a tentative contract agreement midday on Nov. 17 during negotiations at the Levis Faculty Center in Urbana.
The GEO, which represents more than 2,600 graduate and teaching assistants, went on strike Nov. 16 after bargaining sessions over the prior weekend failed to resolve the issue of guaranteed tuition waivers. The GEO had been working without a contract since Aug. 15.
The university reiterated its longstanding, ongoing practice to maintain tuition waivers for graduate assistants and teaching assistants while they continue to hold qualifying assistantships, are in good academic standing, and are making proper progress toward graduation in the program in which they began.
"We value the contributions our graduate assistants make to the campus, and we feel this tentative agreement represents the best possible contract given the financial constraints we face," said Robert Easter, the interim provost and interim chancellor. "We are hopeful that since the bargaining teams have reached tentative agreements that cover all substantive issues, members of the GEO will vote in favor of the agreement."
GEO spokesman Peter Campbell said more than 400 GEO members voted unamimously Tuesday night to accept the terms of the agreement and the GEO strike committee voted to suspend the strike allowing graduate students to return to work Wednesday morning.
A majority of GEO members will need to vote in favor of the agreement to ratify the contract. According to Campbell, an official contract-ratification vote will likely be called later this week.
Other terms of the three-year agreement, retroactive to August 2009, and approved by both sides on Nov. 14, include:
- Increases to the minimum stipend for 50 percent appointments (20 hours per week, nine months per year):
- $13,840 (year one, increased from current minimum of $13,430, retroactive to August 2009)
- $14,250 (year two)
- $14,820 (year three)
- Increases to the student health insurance fee subsidy:
- 65 percent (year one, increased from the current 50 percent subsidy)
- 75 percent (year two)
- 75 percent (year three)
- The creation of a parental accommodation period following the birth or initial adoption of a child.
- Amendments to the grievance language and other non-economic language amendments.
During the strike, hundreds of GEO supporters picketed around campus, including the Quad, Davenport Hall, the English Building, Gregory Hall and the Foreign Languages Building. Some classes and events were canceled or moved to other locations.
Chanting and drums from about 75 protestors outside the Public Affairs Center on the Springfield campus threatened to disrupt the start of the UI Board of Trustees meeting there on Nov. 12, but the situation ended peacefully when board chair Christopher Kennedy and Easter invited them to join the audience inside.