In a historic breakthrough, the University of California and its postdoctoral and academic researchers reached an agreement in principle on Tuesday on what union leaders described as their highest ever pay rise – but workers will not return yet on campus in a show of solidarity with some 36,000 graduate student employees who remain on strike.
“We are proud to have reached agreements that address the soaring cost of living and reflect the value of our contributions to UC,” UAW Local 5810 president Neal Sweeney said in a statement. a statement. “These agreements represent a new, best-in-class model that will improve the quality of life – and the quality of research – for scientists across the United States. Now is the time for UC to make some serious offers to university students. and student researchers and to reach fair agreements that recognize the contributions of these workers.
At a news conference on Tuesday, Sweeney said the tentative agreement would put UC postdoctoral fellows at higher median pay levels than even Stanford, which is setting the tone. Union members have yet to ratify the deal and will remain on strike until that happens.
UC welcomed the agreement and thanked faculty and students in the 10-campus system for their “flexibility and patience” during the strike.
“Our dedicated colleagues are essential to UC’s research activities and we are very pleased to have reached agreements that honor their many important contributions,” said Letitia Silas, executive director of system-wide labor relations. , in a press release. “These agreements also confirm our tradition of supporting these employees with some of the best compensation and benefit plans in the country.
Postdoctoral workers and university researchers make up about 12,000 of the 48,000 union members who three weeks ago launched the country’s largest ever strike by university workers. Teaching assistants, tutors and graduate student researchers from two other bargaining units — UAW 2865 and SRU-UAW — remain on strike. These workers do much of the critical work of leading discussion sections, running labs, grading assignments, and administering exams.
The breakthrough is not expected to significantly alter the uncertainty on campuses systemwide about how to handle grading and final exams at the end of fall terms.
Sweeney stressed that UC should work harder to reach an agreement with teaching assistants and graduate student researchers.
“We believe that the university can and should start making serious proposals to the other two units and that they should come to an agreement as soon as possible, even this week,” he said.
But UC and graduate students remain wide apart on salary proposals — the union is calling for a minimum wage of $54,000, double the current average. UC has requested the intervention of a neutral mediator, which the graduate students oppose.
Sweeney added that the two sides had reached an agreement around midnight and that the massive rallies on campuses, involving hundreds of university workers, appeared to be moving things forward at the negotiating table.
For postdoctoral fellows, the tentative agreement includes:
—A wage increase of 20% to 23% (up to $12,000) by October 2023 for most union members. The currently lowest postdoctoral worker would receive a 57% raise over five years.
—Annual increases of 7.2% for scale postdocs and 3% for those off scales for 2024-2027.
—An increase from four weeks to eight weeks in paid parental and family leave.
— Child care grants that will start at $2,500 per year and increase to $2,800 per year – their first such grant.
—Longer appointments for more job security, better protections against bullying and for workers with disabilities.
—Transportation benefits, including a commitment to free transit passes within three years and a 15% discount on e-bikes.
For university researchers, the agreement provides an average salary increase of 29% over the five-year contract. They will also get eight weeks of paid family leave, longer appointments for better job security, better transportation benefits and greater protection against bullying and for workers with disabilities.