UMass Amherst Administration Declares Impasse in Negotiations With Graduate Student Employees

AMHERST, Mass. - The University of Massachusetts administration has declared an impasse in negotiations with the Graduate Employee Organization (GEO) and will start immediately to implement stipend increases to graduate students.

Announcing the impasse, Chancellor David K. Scott said:

"We have been attempting for almost two years to negotiate a successor contract with the Graduate Employee Organization, a union which represents more than 2,000 of our graduate student employees. Although we have made what I believe to be extraordinarily generous proposals, the GEO leadership has refused to accept our proposals and has made unrealistic demands in return.

"Because our departments are now in the process of recruiting graduate students for the fall, and because our current stipend levels are not sufficiently competitive to attract the best graduate students, I believe it is imperative that we move immediately to implement the stipend increases which we have proposed. Unfortunately, at this point the only avenue we believe is available to us for implementation of these increases is a declaration of impasse. This is an unprecedented and regrettable development for the Amherst campus, but I am convinced that the urgency of providing stipend relief to graduate students -- and the tools necessary for recruitment to our department heads --demands this action."

Associate Chancellor Susan Pearson, the administration’s chief negotiator, said it was "improper and unconscionable" to keep from graduate students stipend increases that amount to about 16 percent or about $1,500 over a three-year period. The stipend increases are for last year, this year, and next year. Students will receive an increase in their checks of Feb. 27, and retroactive increases several weeks after that.

Pearson said the declaration of an impasse also allows the administration to immediately implement other provisions of its proposals to GEO. These include the development of plans for the allocation of $100,000 per year for child care, and to allocate to the Graduate School an additional $100,000 a year starting this spring for efforts to enhance the diversity of the graduate student body.

Pearson said: "We regret that the conclusion of these negotiations could not have been more amicable. We believe, however, that our proposals in these areas are quite reasonable. Most importantly, we do not believe that graduate student employees should continue to pay the price of these protracted negotiations with stagnant stipends."