Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


TAA, state reach tentative contract agreement

After nearly three years of on-and-off deliberations, the University of Wisconsin Teaching Assistants Association and the state reached an agreement last week to bring the two groups into compliance through 2007.

In a Tuesday meeting that ran into the early hours of Wednesday morning, the TAA and the Office of State Employment Relations struck a deal to continue a zero-premium health-care plan through 2005 and institute a paid plan for the 2005-07 biennial contract, according to a copy of the terms obtained by The Badger Herald.

Already approved by a 100-member panel Nov. 17, the plan must now be ratified by a majority of the more than 3,000 UW TAA members by Dec. 2 before moving forward.


If approved by TAA members and a joint employment committee, the proposal would then move on to the Wisconsin State Legislature and then Gov. Jim Doyle for a final endorsement.

While she refused to comment on the current agreement's terms, TAA co-president Samaa Abdurraqib said she was pleased with the last round of negotiations.

"I think we feel good because the whole point of the conciliation session was to come to a point we both agreed with," she said. "Our bottom line … was that no member would be losing ground."

Yet the TAA bargaining team did partly make concessions on the topic that sparked the union's infamous two-day strike in 2004: paid-premium heath care. The most contentious issue throughout the impasse, health insurance disputes have temporarily quashed negotiations for over one and a half years.

TAs and Project Assistants will pay health-care premiums of $11 for a single plan and $27.50 for a family plan from January 2006 to December 2007. However, all TAs would receive pay raises and a one-time $163 bonus from the state — which would amount to one dollar more than health-care costs for a single TAA member in 2007 — at the time Doyle signs the contract.

Starting in January 2007, TAA members will pay $13.50 per month for a single-employee plan and $34 for employees with families.

The rates also vary depending on what health-care provider a TA uses.

OSCER Director Karen Timberlake also refused to comment on the terms but said she was grateful the two were able to at least temporarily reconcile the contracts.

"We're very pleased to reach an agreement," she said. "We think this will serve both the state and the TAA over the upcoming contract period."

If both biennial contracts under the proposal are enacted, the new terms would only go into effect after receiving approval from Doyle. If not, TAA members will continue working under their 2001-03 contract.

Wages would increase an average of 1.7 percent under the 2003-05 contract and 8.24 percent under the 2005-07 contract, with rate increases varying among the various job positions held by TAs. A "regular" TA would see his or her 2003 salary of $11,262.50 rise to $12,736 in 2007.

In a released statement, Burt Johnson, a UW law student and member of the TAA bargaining team, said the terms of the agreement were beneficial to members.

"The union has worked hard over the last two years to make sure that no member loses ground as a result of the health insurance premiums," Johnson said. "The agreements we settled this week provide decent wage increases and ensure that members with families are not priced out of health-care coverage for their spouses and children."

Given the nature of the negotiations, Abdurraquib said she was unable to project whether or not TAA members will ratify the agreement.

"It's hard to predict the outcome of having all members vote on it," Abdurraquib, a College of Letters and Science English TA, said.

After the 18-month hiatus following the strike and numerous failed bargaining sessions, negotiations between the TAA and OSCER reconvened Nov. 1 after the union — claiming the state was not cooperating in "good faith" — filed an unfair labor practice complaint with the Wisconsin Employment Relations Committee.

This compelled WERC to step in and facilitate the process. By meeting with one another, the complaint against the state was settled and WERC was able to help the two groups get past the more emotional aspects of the feud.

"That was certainly a helpful aspect of the process," Timberlake said.

Abdurraqib added WERC helped both parties move forward in a process that has consistently idled without their influence.

"We've just been wanting to move forward," she said. "So, it feels good to actually see us move forward."

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