In a move that echoed the developments of its 2002 contract negotiations, the Graduate Employees’ Organization voted last night to extend its contract with the University until Feb. 24. Through this extension, GEO members hope to continue negotiations with the University, which have been ongoing for the last few months.
Aron Boros, a member of GEO’s bargaining team, said GEO and the University have been slowly moving through the 26 articles of the GEO contract since negotiations began in November. He said GEO is making small gains, but the bargaining team needs more time to push its demands.
By a vote of 245:1, union members voted to support the bargaining team’s recommendation to extend their contract and continue negotiations in hopes of coming to an agreement acceptable to GEO. If GEO members had not voted in favor of the extension, graduate student instructors would go into work and future bargaining without a contract, thus losing certain protections their contract affords, Boros said.
“I am happy to go back to the bargaining table with the confidence of the membership and optimism of the future,” Boros said.
Prior to the meeting, University spokeswoman Julie Peterson said the University had asked GEO to consider an extension on the contract and was hopeful that the union would agree to a later deadline.
“Bargaining is progressing, but it would be good to have more time to work through all the issues that are up for discussion,” Peterson said. “I think (an extension) is a sign that the parties are still working together and are moving in a positive direction.”
Peterson also said that it is quite normal to extend the deadline and that it is hard to complete the bargaining in such a short time period because of the number of proposals GEO has made, as well as scheduling obstacles.
The extension is the first step in escalating the pressure on the University, said Dave Dobbie, president of GEO.
“For the past thirty years, we know that putting pressure on the University in steps somehow makes our issues more logical at the bargaining table,” Dobbie said. “While letting the contract expire is a signal of increased pressure and GEO members’ discontent with the outcome of the bargaining process, the negotiating team wants (the extension) to enable more discussion between GEO and the University to accomplish these goals.”
Dobbie added that GEO will reconvene on Feb. 24 to assess what bargaining progress, if any, has been made during the extension and to decide whether to accept the contract offered by the University.
“If after (the extension) we are not happy with what the University has offered, we will decide what core demands must be met before any contract is signed,” Dobbie said. “This is the second step in escalating pressure on the University, and if we don’t reach an agreement by mid-March, we will then decide on a job action,” which could include a strike.