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Regents approved contract with UI COGS after months of negotiation

BY STACEY MURRAY | MARCH 14, 2013 5:00 AM

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The state Board of Regents agreed to a two-year contract Wednesday with the University of Iowa’s Campaign to Organize Graduate Students after roughly five months of negotiations.

“Despite what each side feels, it’s always a good thing when you can come to a mutual agreement,” said John Keller, the dean of the UI Graduate College.

The COGS organization represents roughly 2,500 UI graduate students. Students qualifying for the negotiated contracts are budgeted as a 25 percent appointment or higher at the UI. The contract will take effect on July 1.

The agreement will allow for a continuation of the 100 percent of tuition scholarships to cover the cost of resident graduate tuition in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, meaning any student under the contract would receive the equivalent of 100 percent of the tuition. If the students are a part of a different college, the liberal-arts tuition amount is subtracted from students’ tuition bill.

While the organization requested a 5 percent increase in wages, the organization met in the middle with administrators and the board, and will receive a 2 percent increase this July, followed by a 2.25 percent increase in 2014.

Regent Craig Lang praised the work of Tim Cook, the regents’ policy and operations officer and associate counsel, for his negotiations.

“I want to thank [Cook and his associates] for their diligent work,” he said. “I know you worked hard at it and took this seriously.”

Despite Lang’s praise, the COGS organization isn’t entirely satisfied with the agreement.

“It’s not as high as we proposed, but it’s still a considerable rate,” said Jason Whisler, the president of UE/COGS.

Despite reaching agreement with wage increases, the newest contract lacks a distinction COGS bargained for. The organization requested graduate students with the contracted teaching positions to be exempt from mandatory fees — a request not met. Graduate liberal-arts students who are taking nine or more credit hours are expected to pay $708.50 in student service fees, previously reported by the The Daily Iowan.

“We are upset,” Whisler said. “We’re vowing to keep up the fight over the next couple of years.”

Whisler said students are given a break on tuition because they are university and state employees and fees should be a part of this break, but administration and board officials wouldn’t budge on the addition.

“They’re nothing but another form of tuition,” he said. “They were simply not willing to negotiate at that level.

But not all agree with the organization’s rationale.

Keller, who acts as an advocate for both sides of the negotiations and works between the student organization and the administrative level, said paying mandatory fees is a reasonable request for these student-employees.

“Fees are paid by all students — undergrads, graduate, and professional students,” he said. “All students pay those to access the services for our students.”

Despite disagreements regarding the place of mandatory fees in the contract, Whisler said in comparison with other employees, COGS — which was established at the UI in the spring of 1993 — is overall happy with the negotiations.

“Other state employees had a rough year,” he said.  “With Gov. [Terry] Branstad not being a fan of public employees, we have to be happy with the raises we got.”

Even with sentiments of disappointment, Keller said the agreement was successful because the two sides reached one.

“It’s successful in the sense that every time we’ve had a negotiation with COGS, we’ve always come to a negotiable contract,” he said. “We’ve never gone into arbitration.”


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