After hours more of negotiations leading up to our contract expiration, we were able to make some progress. Having suggested otherwise for several weeks, the University has now agreed to absorb the increased costs of next year’s GAIP health insurance premium (projected now to be an unprecedented $1.9 million). At a time when other campus employees are being required to contribute more to their monthly premiums, UW has agreed to continue our current premium without decreasing the plan’s overall benefit design, and to maintain the rest of our current contract with no takeaways.

While this represents significant progress, we have agreed to temporarily extend our contract for one week, through May 6, 2011, to try and make further progress on items that have been priorities in this year’s campaign.

The University’s current comprehensive proposal:

  • A one-year agreement, which would expire June 30, 2012
  • The continuation of the GAIP health insurance plan with no changes or takeaways in benefits or premiums;
  • The continuation of the remainder of the collective bargaining agreement;

We’re pleased that the University has made this offer, and while we understand the unprecedented difficulty of the economy we continue to argue that there are simple, inexpensive ways for them to address growing student/instructor ratios, fee increases, childcare, and health insurance benefit gaps that leave ASEs vulnerable to extraodinary costs.

As we’ve repeatedly pointed out, UW is nearing a precipice: by 2012/13, unwaived mandatory fees will have increased by 50% for Academic Student Employees. Not only does this hurt us as individuals, it also damages quality and access to higher ed. At a time when peer institutions around the country are figuring out ways to improve TA/RA compensation, UW’s ability to recruit the best and the brightest will be damaged if this problem isn’t solved. Quality suffers as a result, as does our ability to provide accessible education when this trend is coupled with fewer positions and instructional support centers.

The University has responded that, while they sympathize with the strain caused by these fee increases, they are not willing to invest in mitigating them at a time when they are freezing wages and increasing health care premiums for all other employee groups on campus. We understand this position, but remain committed to finding creative solutions to the fees problem, which will lead to increased wage cuts to our members.

We expect to meet with UW as much as possible next week, and will continue to send updates as we have them. As always, we appreciate your continued engagement. We’ve had literally hundreds of conversations with members in the past few weeks about these important issues, and even the University’s chief negotiator pointed out that our members’ efforts to raise the profile of these problems have not gone unnoticed (see, for example, a timely letter to the editor published in the Daily by English TA Arendt Oak Speser).

Please continue to contact us with any questions or concerns.

In Solidarity,

UAW 4121 Bargaining Committee
David Parsons, English
Jessica Pikul, Chemistry
Evette Jasper, Education
Dylan Mayer, Philosophy
Lei Cheng, Mechanical Engineering
Jean Dinh, Medicinal Chemistry
Toni Ferro, Human Centered Design and Engineering
Garrett Strain, Odegaard Writing & Research Center
Phil Harding, Neurobiology and Behavior