- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 10, 2014

EUGENE, Ore. (AP) - In the middle of exam week, graduate teaching assistants at the University of Oregon have reached a contract agreement with the school’s administration and ended their strike.

The compromise reached Wednesday gives the graduate teachers some control over what’s described as a souped-up hardship fund for medical and maternity purposes, The Eugene Register-Guard (https://bit.ly/1yQAQ9b) reported.

The sticking point in the bargaining was the question of paid medical and maternity leave. The teaching assistants wanted it. The school countered with a hardship fund the teachers could tap.

Joe Henry, president of the graduate teachers union, said the deal includes 5 percent annual pay raises over two years.

The union plans a ratification vote, but graduates said they would be back at work Wednesday. The university said in a statement that interim President Scott Coltrane would sign the agreement.

The strike was the first in the 38-year history of the Graduate Teaching Fellows Federation.

It began on Dec. 1, just as students were beginning the “dead week” in advance of exams. As it stretched on, tensions arose between faculty members and the administration over how to handle tests and grading, something the teaching assistants often handle.

Henry said the hardship fund isn’t paid leave but would help teachers who get seriously ill or have new children.

“Effectively, grads who experience family or medical issues will be able to receive the funds they need for missed work,” he said in a statement.

It provides for grants of $1,000 for medical and $1,500 for maternity purposes, and it would apply to all graduate students, not just those covered by the contract, Henry said.

He said graduate students would be on a board controlling the fund, and denial of benefits would be subject to grievances.


Information from: The Register-Guard, https://www.registerguard.com

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