GEO files complaints over pay delays

GEO files complaints over pay delays

URBANA — Graduate employees at the University of Illinois say over 30 of them have not been paid yet for their work this semester as teaching assistants or research assistants on campus.

Natalye Tate expected to be paid, like other UI employees, on Sept. 16. But that hasn't happened, she said.

As a result, she and others have had to apply for emergency, short-term loans from the UI's Office for Student Financial Aid. A graduate student in the Department of Anthropology, Graduate College fellow and teaching assistant, Tate also said she didn't have her tuition waived until earlier this week.

"We haven't received any productive reply from academic human resources and so we wanted to send a message, to let administration know people are being adversely affected and hopefully these individuals will be made whole quickly," she said.

Tate, co-president of the Graduate Employees Organization and lead negotiator for the union, said the union has filed a grievance and an unfair labor practice charge with the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board because many of the graduate employees affected by the payment delays hold leadership positions in the union.

University spokeswoman Robin Kaler said that is not why some payments may have been delayed.

When someone hasn't been paid, it can be for a variety of reasons, Kaler said. For example, the prospective employee has to sign an I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification form and he or she must complete the new-hire process. The unit must input data into the UI's system, and there are 5,400 graduate assistant jobs that must be added to the system every August.

At the same time, departments and units and human resources are adding new faculty, academic professionals, civil service employees and others.

"In an organization this large, there will always be some appointments that don't get processed. But we have procedures to correct those issues. As soon as we learn of a specific problem, we work to correct it. We apply appointments daily and run pay adjustments weekly. The same is true for tuition waivers," Kaler said.

Kaler urged any graduate employees who have questions or concerns about appointments to call academic human resources at 333-6747 and ask for Karen McLaughlin.

Meanwhile, the GEO's collective bargaining agreement with the university expired Aug. 15 and union negotiators have been meeting with university staff on a new contract. Bargaining has been going on since April; the next session is Thursday.

One of the issues important to union members is protection of those tuition waivers, the reason union members went on strike in 2009.

After two days of being on strike that year, the union won concessions in contract language that protected waivers. But in 2010 a new administrative policy change moved to reduce waivers for some incoming graduate employees in the College of Fine and Applied Arts. The union filed a grievance, saying the policy violated the GEO's contract. The case went to arbitration and last fall the arbitrator sided with the union. It's now pending before the labor board.

GEO represents about 2,300 graduate employees on the campus.

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Joe American wrote on September 26, 2012 at 11:09 am

Suck it up, GEOers.  Half the state hasn't been paid, and you're whining about what should have never been to begin with?  You wanted to be part of the real world while in the make-believe world of being a college student.  Glad that worked out for you.

mmemartinez wrote on September 26, 2012 at 12:09 pm

I really hope this is sarcasm. You realize their complaint is that they have not yet been paid for work they've completed? And that when they are also not paid over the summer, even summer job income can dry up before the next paycheck comes. Considering it is already almost October, that's at least two months of rent, utilities and living expenses that they have to cover, despite the fact that they expected a paycheck. You would just let your employer not pay you because...?

Kingdomwrker wrote on September 26, 2012 at 1:09 pm

The University is fully able to pay its employees (click for an outside analysis), whatever the financial state of the state of Illinois.

And it never ceases to amaze me that when it comes to the rights or benefits of graduate employees at the of U of I, just because some other workers don't have the same reasonable rights/benefits (like raises for inflation, or paid parental leave), for some reason we should not either. Should the state fulfill its contracts for work already done (and in some cases that continues to be done)? YES. Should the university fix this problem post-haste? YES. They are not mutually exclusive propositions. Put more simply, two wrongs do not make a right.