The University of Oregon and the Graduate Teaching Fellows Federation have reached a tentative agreement after eight days of striking in regard to higher wages and paid leave. The agreement includes 5 percent raises to the minimum wages retroactive for this year and 5 percent raises for next year as well. The agreement also includes the formation of the Graduate Student Assistance Fund that will be accessible to all graduate students.

The GTFF voted to strike in October after bargaining with the university since November 2013, and the strike began on Dec. 2. Initially the GTFF proposed two weeks of paid parental and medical leave, while the UO offered twelve weeks of unpaid leave and no paid leave. During the eight administrative days of the strike, the UO and the GTFF met in mediation sessions four times, the last session being on Tuesday Dec. 9. The GTFF and UO spent 22 hours in mediation over the course of Monday Dec. 8 and Tuesday Dec. 9.

In these sessions, different alternatives to paid leave were discussed and now both groups have agreed to form the Graduate Student Assistance Fund. While this is not paid leave, the fund will allow graduate students to relieve the financial burden of taking unpaid leave. The GTFF’s Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) will include new language regarding the fund. The fund will be an agreement between the University president, the dean of the Graduate School, and a Graduate Student Assistance Fund Committee which will include GTFF members and graduate students.

While the agreement is tentative and will be voted on by the GTFF membership, the agreement will allow striking GTFs to return to their work and to their students as finals week progresses.

“We are very happy for the strike to end,” GTFF president Joe Henry said in the GTFF press release. “Our students can now get adequate assessments of their progress and learning during the quarter.”

Interim President Scott Coltrane wrote in an e-mail that he is very pleased the bargaining teams have reached a tentative agreement, and that members of the university can now get back to “end-of-term activities.”

Coltrane also said the new agreement will give the UO an opportunity to be there for graduate students in time of need, and will attract future graduate students to the UO.

“Not only will it meet the needs of graduate students during life’s most challenging and rewarding times, it also allows the university to meet those needs in a fiscally responsible way and will help us attract the best graduate students in the country.”

“This has been a challenging time for our campus. It is now time for us to begin rebuilding trust. I urge everyone to look forward and to work to bring our campus community together.”

Follow Francesca Fontana on Twitter @francescamarief

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