The Temple University Graduate Students’ Association is claiming victory after reaching a tentative four-year contract settlement with the University.
The tentative agreement provides for wage hikes, increased health coverage, language on workloads and provisions for training — all key issues of TUGSA.
“We are especially pleased with the increase in the minimum wages [that graduates are paid],” union organizer Rob Callahan said.
The contract has been signed by TUGSA representatives and voted on by union members on Wednesday and Thursday.
Graduate assistants are currently paid an average of $11,000 a year. Under the new contract, grads working in the sciences will receive a minimum of $13,400 for the 2002-2003 school year, those in social sciences, business, education, and health will receive $12,900, and those in arts and humanities will receive $12,400. Graduates will receive a 2.75 percent raise in the next three years, which should exceed increases in the cost of living, Callahan said.
The contract comes after five months of contentious negotiations between the union and the University. TUGSA accused the University of using stalling tactics in the course of the negotiations. The union held several rallies and actions on campus, including a Groundhog’s day picket at the Liacouras Center, a work-in at the Student Center, and a picket of March’s Board of Trustees meeting.
The University declined to comment on the settlement, saying that they were waiting until after the contract vote this week.
The union also won a “dramatic step forward in availability and affordability in health coverage,” said Callahan. The University currently pays $400 toward health coverage. Under the new agreement, the University will pay for 12 months of coverage from CompSelect or nine months of coverage from Keystone, with the summer months paid for by the student.
The Keystone plan has cost grad students less than CompSelect and offers vision, dental and prescription coverage. CompSelect has been described as the “spatula plan” by some union members, saying that it will scrape you off of the street but not much else. Under the old contract, the university paid 68 percent of the cost for CompSelect or 26 percent of the Keystone costs.
Graduates can enroll their spouses and dependents on the health plan, as well as domestic partners. TUGSA is the first union at Temple to win the right to enroll domestic partners in University health plans.
Also included in the contract were limits on workload. The contract formalizes the rule of a maximum of 20 hours a week for each grad student. Many union members have complained that they are often given amounts of work that exceeds this limit.
The union “did not accomplish as much as we had hoped for” in the contract in terms of training for the graduates, Callahan said. TUGSA had been pushing for better training for the graduate assistants.
The contract gives graduates compensation for attending mandatory training sessions at the beginning of the semester. Graduates will be compensated with a reduced workload equivalent to the number of hours in training.
The new contract also provides for other issues such as grievance procedures, arbitration procedures and full-tuition remission. It also prohibits strikes and lockouts throughout the contract length.
Brian White can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org