After nearly a year of negotiations, the University of Connecticut and the Graduate Employee Union reached a tentative agreement Tuesday to give graduate assistants health insurance and 9 percent raises over the next three years.

The 2,200 graduate students, which make up the largest bargaining group at the school, gained representation from the United Auto Workers after the State Board of Labor Relations certified their petitions last year. It wasted no time starting negotiations for a contract with university officials for healthcare benefits and wages.

“Graduate assistants at UConn provide affordable, quality education to thousands of our state’s young people and perform innovative research that helps attract roughly $150 million to the university,” Morgan Thomas, a member of the union, said. “These revenues not only help UConn, but also lead to greater stimulation of our state economy. We deserve health benefits on par with those of our fellow state employees.”

The university and the GEU-UAW agreed on a health care plan that will be provided at a “very low cost” to graduate assistants through the terms of the tentative agreement, President Susan Herbst said Tuesday in a press release.

According to the contract, individual graduate assistants will be paying $200 annually for health insurance, $75 for the fall semester only, or $125 for the spring semester only. 
Although the GEU-UAW originally demanded a 20 percent increase to graduate assistant stipends over three years, the tentative contract provides for 9 percent over three years. Currently, graduate assistants are paid stipends that range from $20,965 to $24,526 for the academic year.

The 9 percent increase is similar to the increases received by state employees, Herbst said.

Members of the union also argued that they should be exempt from all university fees, but the contract only exempts graduate assistants from an infrastructure fee. It will offer a credit against fees of $100 per semester in the second year of the contract and a $200 per semester credit in the third year, according to Herbst’s press release.

The union’s demands for three weeks of vacation time, two-and-a-half weeks of additional leave time each semester, and a retirement plan, were not included in the agreement.

The three-year contract will be recommended to UConn’s Board of Trustees, and if agreed upon, it will be submitted to union members for ratification, according to the joint statement by the university and the union. If both the board and the union members approve the agreement, it will be submitted to the state legislature for approval before it can take effect.
The General Assembly adjourns on June 3.