After walking away from the bargaining table Thursday night, the University’s bargaining team contacted the Graduate Employee’s Organization with a revised four-year contract that has caused the union to reconsider the agreement.

With legislation that limits unions’ ability to organize within workplaces taking effect in Michigan on March 28, GEO had been meeting with the University every day last week until Thursday, when it decided not enough movement was being made by the University on central issues. The union, which represents graduate student instructors and graduate student staff assistants, decided to take its chances negotiating with the University when its contract expires in 2014, said GEO spokeswoman Emily Howard, a Rackham student.

“As an official GEO spokesperson and as someone who was there Thursday night and saw all of this personally, none of (GEO members) had any clue this would happen,” Howard said. “We were so surprised Friday morning when they contacted us.”

University spokesman Rick Fitzgerald said despite GEO’s decision Thursday night, the University’s bargaining team continued to work on a suitable proposal.

“This is the bargaining process at work,” Fitzgerald said. “This give-and-take is the natural part of collective bargaining and trying to reach agreement that is mutually beneficial to the members of the bargaining unit and the University as a whole — that’s where we always hope to end up.”

Howard said one of the biggest sticking points for GEO was maintaining language in the current contract regarding job security. Such language allows GSIs and GSSAs to receive full benefits and wages for one semester if they are offered a position that is then reduced or revoked. The University wanted to severely cut these benefits, Howard said. This was an especially relevant issue to international students because of their employment status greatly affecting their immigration status as well.

Because GSIs and GSSAs don’t necessarily work full time, salaries are determined by a fraction that compares their work with a full-time employee. Howard said the new proposal addresses GEO’s concerns with the introduction of a new fraction of full-time work.

She explained that the University initially wanted to introduce a four-tenths fraction, which could have meant a 20-percent salary reduction for many GSIs and GSSAs currently classified under the five-tenths fraction. The new fraction is 65 percent of full time, and Howard said that fewer GSIs and GSSAs would be affected. Furthermore, some GSIs and GSSAs currently classified as working 60-percent of full-time might be bumped up to 65 percent.

If GEO members vote in favor of the proposal on Monday night, the bargaining team will submit a tentative agreement with Academic Human Resources. In this case, an electronic voting system will be set up and members can vote until 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday, Howard said.

“So by Thursday morning when the regents meet, Academic HR will already have sent them the contract,” Howard said.

In the ground rules established between the bargaining teams, Friday — two weeks before the legislation, often called right to work, takes effect — had been designated as the day for negotiations to end, Howard said.

And after a review of the GEO bylaws, Howard said there is no language maintaining that the GEO members must wait two weeks before ratifying the contract as reported in The Michigan Daily on Thursday.

“We wanted two weeks because we wanted a comfortable time frame, but there’s nothing in the bylaws that says we have to wait two weeks to ratify a contract,” she said.

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