25, No. 20, May 4, 2006
Negotiations under way for
Sharita Forrest, Assistant Editor
IFT-AFT Local 6300
has begun bargaining for a new three-year contract for graduate employees
on the Urbana campus. The current contract between the university and
the GEO will expire in August.
UI and GEO officials held their first negotiation session April 24 and
are scheduled to meet again May 19; they expect to meet every few weeks
until they reach a new agreement.
“We’re hoping to come up with the best package we can, within
the constraints of what we can afford to do,” said Robin Kaler,
associate chancellor for public affairs.
As the university and the GEO begin negotiating the second contract,
key concerns for GEO members are the costs of student fees and health
insurance coverage, particularly for graduate employees with families.
The benefits in the current contract included a 3 percent cost-of-living
raise during each year of the contract, full waiver of the McKinley
Health Center fee, and a $100 subsidy toward the student health insurance
fee of $230 per semester. For a graduate student’s spouse, health
insurance costs $910 per semester; coverage for any number of children
is $454 per semester.
The UI Board of Trustees recently approved tuition and fee increases
for undergraduate and graduate students for the 2006-2007 academic year.
For graduate students, the health insurance fee and the health service
fee were increased to $256 and $196 per semester, respectively.
Next year, all new graduate and undergraduate students also will pay
a $250 per semester Academic Facilities Maintenance Fund Assessment.
The fee was implemented to help the university make repairs and renovations
to buildings on the Urbana and Chicago campuses.
The union, which represents about 2,700 of the 6,048 graduate assistants
on the Urbana campus, was certified by the Illinois Educational Labor
Board in December 2002, following an election by graduate teaching assistants
and graduate assistants. The current GEO contract, which was the first
between the campus and its graduate employees, was ratified in 2004,
but was retroactive to 2003.