The on again, off again negotiations between Temple University and the Graduate Students Union have stalled once again after a deadline passed Feb. 28.
Contract talks have been postponed until March 20 by Temple’s chief negotiator Robert Birnbauer. The postponement came after three days of talks, Feb. 26-28, at the Holiday Inn in Center City between Temple’s negotiators and those of the Temple University Graduate Students Union. The talks were scheduled to last 10 hours each day.
“The negotiators spent most of [the 10 hours] waiting for Temple’s team to show up,” said union organizer Rob Callahan, “The meetings were nowhere near as productive as they could have been.”
Birnbauer suggested that talks resume on Saturday, March 2 to give the Temple negotiators time to work on proposals. On Friday, March 1, he notified the TUGSA negotiators that he was leaving for a vacation and would not be able to meet with them until March 20. Birnbauer did not return requests for comment.
At a rally on Feb. 2, TUGSA asked the administration to agree to a deadline of Feb. 28 for a contract agreement, to which Temple’s negotiators agreed. During February the two sides met several times for talks, including the three days of negotiations last week.
Agreement has been reached on several contract provisions, including affirmative action, grievance procedure and discrimination. The union’s main points of contention with the administration are over wages, healthcare and training. The union has put forward proposals on these issues, but Temple has “yet to respond,” Callahan said.
TUGSA voted 290-16 to unionize last March. Contract negotiations began last November. Union members are growing angry at what they call stalling tactics being used by the University. In a press release, TUGSA alleges that Temple negotiators have “not been working in earnest” toward a contract agreement. Several members said that although they had minimal health coverage, meetings in January were canceled when a Temple negotiator got sick.
“The administration’s behavior in these negotiations has been an insult to every teaching and research assistant at this institution,” said union member April Blake, an English grad student.
“It is in the best interest of the entire University community that this matter be settled speedily,” said Callahan.
The union is asking for an increase in their wage of $11,000 a year, full paid health coverage and better training for the graduate teaching assistants. Graduate students do about 30 percent of teaching at Temple. This includes leading recitation sessions and assisting professors in research, as well as teaching classes.