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COGS mostly wins on fees

BY CARLY MATTHEW | MARCH 03, 2015 5:00 AM

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Next year, University of Iowa graduate students could see increased salaries and a partial waiver of fees because of a new contract.

The Campaign to Organize Graduate Students, the graduate-student union, recently reached an agreement with the state Board of Regents that could be ratified during the regents’ March 11 meeting in Iowa City.

Regent communications director Sheila Doyle Koppin said the regents would defer comment until after they could hear a report and discuss the agreement during their meeting next week.

Negotiations began in November 2014; COGS’ current contract expires in June. The two sides had to reach an agreement by March 15 or go to arbitration.

“It’s surprising how difficult it is to get these things,” COGS campus chief steward Melissa Zimdars said. “It’s troubling, but I’m proud of what we were able to accomplish.”

One of the biggest successes, COGS President Jeannette Gabriel said, was reaching the student-fee agreement.

In the new contract, the UI would cover 25 percent of graduate-student fees for those who work as teaching and research assistants.

Currently, only the technology fee is waived.

“Our initial demand was for 100 percent fees, but we agreed to work with the Board of Regents in a process based on their willingness to make the bargaining unit whole on the tuition-waiver issue in the College of Education,” Gabriel said.

The tuition waiver covers the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Tuition for the College of Education had been raised above this rate leaving students to cover the difference.

The new contract language extends full tuition coverage to College of Education students.

COGS staged a protest on the Pentacrest in October and created a petition collecting approximately 1,100 signatures to push for the fee reimbursement.

They also sent a flurry of letters to The Daily Iowan calling for a full waiver.

At first, the regents argued fees were not a mandatory topic of bargaining and did not include them in initial proposals.

The state of Iowa, the regents and the UI filed a petition with the Public Employment Relations Board in December 2014. The employment board found fees were a mandatory bargaining issue and decided they qualified as “supplemental pay.”

“It was a huge blow to the university and the Board of Regents,” Gabriel said. “In a sense, the university made it more difficult for themselves.”

COGS’ other significant gain was a salary increase of 1 percent in the first year of the new contract and 3 percent in the second year, she said.

Contract negotiations began with both sides presenting contract proposals. COGS’ initial proposal included a 4.5 percent salary increase; the regents’ called for no such rise.

COGS also proposed accommodations for eight weeks paid parental leave and transgender care during negotiations, gaining neither.

“Their response was incredibly callous,” Gabriel said.


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