As many of you may know, our most recent bargaining session was on Tuesday, August 14. Greg Sutliff from the Philosophy Dept. represented the GEO. I am pleased to say the session went well, and that we were able to continue to make incremental progress toward a new contract.
Most significantly, we reached a tentative agreement with the university concerning those articles of our contract that govern employee discipline and the employee-grievance procedure. While, with respect to employee discipline, the parties agreed only to some minor changes for the sake of clarity and readability, we were able to implement some important improvements in the section of the contract that governs grievances. For example, we persuaded the university to accept a longer timetable (30 business days instead of 30 calendar days) for the initial filing of a grievance. This will give our members no less than twelve additional days to initiate a grievance through the Union if they cannot resolve a work-related issue informally with their supervisor, ensuring that grievances do not go unheard because of an excessively short deadline to file.
Reaching an agreement on the above issues has freed us up us to tackle other matters. For instance, the GEO and the university have exchanged counterproposals on several other contract provisions, including those that provide for employees’ sick leave, bereavement leave, and parental leave (provisions which we are seeking to expand), and those that restrict GEO members from taking part in labor-actions such as strikes. On Tuesday, Greg also discussed with the university’s representatives objections that the GEO has raised to certain language in our contract, which places restrictions on those grad employees who seek additional employment outside the university. Grad employees have a right to support themselves with outside employment, but rather than affirming this right, our current contract singles these employees out for special scrutiny from their supervisor(s) and from within their academic program. Consequently, we will continue to push for language that protects the rights of grad employees with outside jobs.
To date, we’ve made significant progress toward a new, fairer contract, but with so much still on the table the bargaining process is only beginning. Many of the issues that GEO members are most concerned about, including bread-and-butter financial issues, have yet to be discussed. Although we are seeing some signs that the university will be ready to begin tackling these financial matters in the near future, we will continue to press them until we see an actual reply to the GEO’s financial proposals, which have been on the table—and awaiting a response—since May of this year.
The involvement of GEO members will make a huge impact in the coming weeks. It is vital that the university see how invested our members are in seeing negotiations on the remaining portions of the contract concluded on a timely basis. Keep in mind that the term of our existing contract has already expired as of this week. Our next bargaining session is on Wednesday, August 22. This is your chance to show the university that a fair and prompt resolution to the bargaining process is important to you. We’ll be meeting with the university’s representatives in the Monarch Room of Student Center East, from 1 to 5 PM. I hope you’ll be there.
GEO Bargaining Chair