UIC, graduate employee union sign contract

At the contract signing (L-R back): Michael Ginsburg, associate vice chancellor for student affairs, Tonia Nikopoulos, assistant dean, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Steven Kregon, executive assistant dean, Graduate College, Marilyn LaBlaiks, assistant director of labor and employee relations, and Liz Sauer, GEO; (front) Tom Riley, director of labor and employee relations, Chancellor Paula Allen-Meares and Marissa Baker, GEO co-president.

After almost a year of negotiations, UIC administrators and representatives of the Graduate Employees Organization signed a three-year contract Monday that provides for increases in salary and university contributions to health insurance premiums.

“Our membership overwhelmingly approved this agreement, which means it’s a strong contract,” said Marissa Baker, GEO co-president and a Ph.D. student in art history, after she joined Chancellor Paula Allen-Meares and members of the negotiating team in signing the agreement.

The new contract, retroactive to Aug. 16, 2012, extends until Aug. 15, 2015, and covers about 1,500 teaching and graduate assistants.

The minimum stipend for a nine-month, 50 percent appointment, currently $14,565, will increase by $500 per year for each year of the contract. Continuing GAs and TAs will receive the campuswide general wage increase.

Retroactive pay for the 2012 fall and 2013 spring semesters will be included in May 16 paychecks for a majority of the GAs and TAs.

The university contribution to Campus Care, the student health insurance plan, will remain at $125 for this academic year. Beginning fall 2013, the contribution will increase to $150 or 33 percent of the premium, whichever is higher. In the 2014-15 academic year, the university’s contribution to premiums will increase to $175 or 35 percent of the premium, whichever is higher.

The contract also includes more flexibility in eligibility for sick and bereavement leave.

“We are grateful to both the university and GEO bargaining teams for their hard work and commitment to the process of collective bargaining to reach an agreement that is fair to all sides and the community we serve,” said Tom Riley, director of labor and employee relations, who brought two homemade cakes (one vegan) to the signing ceremony.

“And we thank the graduate assistants for their day-to-day contributions to the mission of the university.”

GEO, an affiliate of the Illinois Federation of Teachers, was certified as the collective bargaining representative for UIC graduate and teaching assistants in 2004. The first contract was signed in 2006, followed by a second contract signed in 2010 and retroactive to 2009.

Baker said GEO members plan to work with other undergraduate and graduate student organizations and Illinois lawmakers on the issue of tuition differentials, additional charges that vary, according to academic program, to cover costs not included in base tuition and state funding.

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