Fall 2019 Status of UConn Postdoc Union Negotiations
After ten months of bargaining, we enter Fall 2019 at a critical juncture. While we are proud to have reached agreement on more than 15 contract articles, we enter a new academic year facing major challenges on some of the core issues that led a strong majority of Postdocs to form our union in the first place.
- Sexual Harassment and Discrimination: UConn has so far rejected our proposal for Postdocs to have some of the same rights and protections as GAs on sexual harassment and other forms of discrimination, such as interim protective measures during an investigation and enhanced access to representation.
- Health Insurance: UConn insists that Postdocs continue to pay significantly higher “non union” healthcare premiums than the tens of thousands of other unionized state employees, including our own PIs
- Retirement: UConn has denied Postdocs access to a retirement plan, which virtually all other full-time state employees have. In bargaining, they have so far refused to address this substantial inequity..
- Compensation: , In contrast to our proposal for annual pay increases for ALL postdocs, UConn has proposed a one-time 2% increase to the minimum salary, no increase for those already above the minimum, and no assurance of any increases in future years, a proposal that would actually move us backwards from current policies and practices.
Pursuing all avenues for a fair contract. Because of UConn’s firm rejection of some of our core priorities, as of Fall 2019 we have chosen to pursue several additional avenues in order to secure the best possible compensation, benefits and workplace rights for Postdocs.
First, given our belief that Postdocs deserve the same, more affordable, insurance premiums and access to retirement benefits as tens of thousands of other unionized full-time state employees, we are now pursuing grievances through the State Employee Bargaining Agent Coalition (SEBAC) to achieve those goals. SEBAC has an agreement with the state covering all unionized state employees that we believe entitles UConn Postdocs to the lower premiums and access to retirement benefits. Given UConn’s failure to make any meaningful proposals on these topics, we feel compelled to pursue every option to achieve progress on these topics.
Second, we have now invoked the interest arbitration process as a way to get through the overall stalemate in negotiations. A majority of Postdocs voted last spring to authorize the bargaining committee to pursue interest arbitration if we deemed it necessary to secure fair provisions in our first contract. As an alternative to striking, which is prohibited in Connecticut, interest arbitration is a process whereby a neutral person hears from both the Union and University and issues a binding decision on final contract language for each outstanding issue. (You can click here to read more about interest arbitration). Even as we move through this process, UConn is also free at any time to agree to fair provisions that would finalize our first contract without having to go through the whole process of arbitration.