Committee approves $15 million UConn graduate assistant union contract

The Appropriations Committee on Tuesday approved a contract between UConn and the Graduate Employees Union which grants an 8 percent raise over the course of 4 years for student teachers at Connecticut’s flagship university.

The total cost of the new contract is estimated to be $15.4 million, according to the Office of Fiscal Analysis and includes $4.3 million in waived tuition and fees.

The contract will now go the House for a vote. If the legislature does not vote on a contract within 30 days, it is deemed rejected. With less than a month left in session it is unknown if the contract will garner enough support to pass.

A fully employed graduate assistant works 20 hours per week teaching classes and currently earns between $22,909 and $26,800 per year, marking a 9.2 percent increase since 2015, according to their current labor agreement.

Associate Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer for UConn Christopher Delello testified before the Appropriations Committee that approximately 68 percent of graduate assistants are working 20 hour weeks and 23 percent are working 10 hour weeks.

Under the terms of the contract, annual income for a fully employed assistant would rise to between $24,000 and $29,000 per year.

Tuition is waived for graduate assistants. The waiver is not to exceed $7,675 per semester or $15,350 per year, according to the 2018-2019 graduate tuition schedule.

Graduate assistants also receive healthcare at a cost of $200 per year for a single individual up to $1,822 per year for a family. Under the terms of the new contract the price for an individual will rise to $240 per year in 2021 while family rates will remain the same.

“Our new contract makes significant improvements by lessening the yearly burden of student fees and
increasing our overall compensation so that we are able to focus our energies on groundbreaking research rather than on struggling to pay for rent and groceries,” graduate assistant Thomas Reid said in his written testimony.

The contract goes to the legislature at at time when Connecticut faces a $200 million deficit and lawmakers are showing more resistance to bills with high price tags.

The OFA’s analysis of the bill says that UConn has the money to cover the increased costs, but tuition has been rising and the university narrowly avoided state funding cuts during 2017 budget negotiations.

The GEU Local 6950 is not part of SEBAC so their contract was not automatically approved with passage of the 2017 SEBAC Concessions agreement. UConn professors are covered under the SEBAC agreement.

The SEBAC deal negotiated by Gov. Dannel Malloy included $2,000 lump sum payments to nearly 47,000 state employee union members in July of 2018 at a cost of $104 million followed by 3.5 percent raises and step increases in 2020 and 2021. Connecticut may face a budget deficit of $4.6 billion the next biennium.

A contract between UConn and the Professional Employees Association went to the legislature in 2016, but was pulled from consideration when it received little support from either Republicans or Democrats. That contract called for a 21 percent raise for 2,000 non-teaching UConn employees.

The GEU Local 6950 was officially formed in 2015 and is comprised of 2,140 graduate teaching and research assistants.

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