We were advised during this week's bargaining session that the university may be prohibited from using state funds to provide fee waivers for the health and transportation fees. We are currently waiting for documentation of why state funds cannot be used for waivers and will respond to their informal proposal once we receive it. The university also informally offered to provide GAs this semester a lump sum payment in the form of a check/direct deposit equal to the amount of the health and transportation fees. We anticipate this would be paid as a reimbursement check some time before the end of the year. For Spring 2021 and beyond, this amount would be disbursed across all paychecks, according to the informal proposal.
In the meantime, we recommend not paying your fees immediately. We understand that it may be difficult for some to save for a lump payment in mid-November. The university has advised it will likely extend the deadline for payment to November 20th; we are working to reasonably resolve related fee issues by then and will update you accordingly!
You may also be curious whether the amount owed according to your Bursar account statement is accurate. Our team has done some research and made persistent requests for information related fees calculation from the Bursar. What we've learned is that fees should be at least $81.96 per credit hour for in-person courses and independent/supervised/directed research credits. Fees for courses delivered remotely may be more than $81.96 per credit hour if a distance learning fee is assessed. However, we're told the distance learning fee varied from department to department and college to college. If the amount of fees you owe is more than $81.96 per credit hour and you are taking a course delivered through Zoom, then you are advised to contact your department and college to ask for the amount of any distance learning fees assessed on these courses.
We understand that fee charges in your Bursar account this semester are confusing. Your union is keeping active communication with the Bursar as well as other representatives to make sense of it all. We are starting to get more answers and will keep you informed of new developments as we move forward. Thank you for your patience and stay tuned for more updates soon.
GAU continues to bargain with UF over our health insurance plan, GatorGradCare (GGC). During our October 7th bargaining session, GAU representatives fought to ensure graduate employees in need of expensive care or treatments will not suffer an even greater financial burden in the future.
In response to our tentative acceptance of some changes to the health care plan, UF released a new proposal. You can compare the administration's current proposal from October 7th with their previous proposition from September 30th below.
Of note, the Administration is no longer seeking to increase co-insurance for Tier 2 services from 70/30% to 60/40%. GAU opposed this proposal because it put our most vulnerable GAs at risk. We have also fought increases in the calendar year deductible (CYD). UF proposed increasing the deductible by 100%, from $100 to $200. GAU countered with a 50% increase, from $100 to $150. This deductible does not apply for services with a co-payments, such as doctor visits.
UF's new proposal does not currently account for an increase in monthly premiums. The Administration and GatorCare are still determining what increase they would like to propose. GAU believes small premium increases are a vital way to protect our GAs with chronic illnesses and those who experience life-threatening medical issues.
You can watch our latest bargaining session below to see how GAU fights to protect the health of graduate employees.
Fellow graduate assistants,
GAU is currently bargaining with the administration concerning our health insurance plan, GatorGradCare (GGC). The big issue that we and the administration are contending with is that over the past three years GGC has been operating at a total deficit of $383,369. This, in conjunction with overall rising healthcare costs, means that the UF administration needs to make a deal that saves them money for this program.
They made their proposal this past Wednesday, September 30th. Here are the proposed changes:
This plan makes no increases to GAs monthly premiums, but this is offset with increased costs elsewhere. Most concerning to GAU are the increase in calendar year deductible (CYD) from $100 to $200, the increase in Tier 2 hospital per admission deductibles (PAD) to $1500, the increase in Tier 2 services co-insurance from 70/30% to 60/40%, and a $20 per visit copay for dental services.
GAU opposes this proposal because it puts our most vulnerable GAs at risk. As a group insurance plan, large individual costs for those with chronic illnesses are offset by the premiums of healthier individuals. The UF administration’s offer keeps monthly premiums the same but increases individual costs should emergencies or chronic illnesses arise. This is something we are all hyper aware of during this global pandemic. Therefore, GAU is countering with a plan that removes or reduces the four proposed changes discussed above. We are aware that this will inevitably result in an increase in monthly premiums for GAs across the board. However, we feel that it is important to protect our GAs with chronic illnesses and those who experience life-threatening medical issues, especially since based on our calculations the increased premium amount will be less than 50%.
I understand that health care can be needlessly complex and confusing, which is why GAU held a Health Care Town Hall on September 16th to go over some basic concepts and discuss the options that were previously on the table.
Fellow graduate assistants and allies,
This pandemic presents a choice to all of us. Graduate employees are depending on the University of Florida to institute fair standards and protections due to the disruption of academic and personal life caused by Coronavirus (COVID-19).
3 Ways to Support GAU
Here’s how you can take action:
Call, email, or tweet, President Fuchs and demand that he directs the Office of the Provost to immediately come to an agreement with GAU on a memorandum of understanding (MOU) including the following relief and protections for graduate employees:
As president, Fuchs is responsible for the everyday operations of the University and for setting UF's goals and missions, including protecting its students and workers. Tell him you stand with GAU!
Fellow graduate assistants,
On Wednesday, April 8th, GAU's Bargaining Committee conducted an informational bargaining session on GatorGradCare with the President and Medical Director of GatorCare, Dr. Jill Sumfest. The purpose of the meeting was to receive information on GatorGradCare, so the administration and GAU can effectively negotiate health care coverage for our next collective bargaining agreement.
During the approximately two-hour virtual session, Dr. Sumfest provided detailed information on GatorGradCare's benefits, as well as the plan's medical, pharmacy, and financial performance over the past three years (the length of our contract). A video highlighting GatorGradCare and its current benefits is provided below. Dr. Sumfest also previewed possible benefit changes to GatorGradCare under a 2020-23 contract. Many of these proposed changes would make available benefits provided to other GatorCare members but not yet GatorGradCare members. Increases to premiums, deductibles, co-pays, and coinsurance were also suggested.
GAU's Bargaining Chair Javier Mesa and members of the Executive Committee pressed Dr. Sumfest on the consequences of the proposed changes, as well as the availability and cost of current benefits, such as online therapy from TalkSpace.
GAU will continue to fight for quality and affordable health care services. Please comment below or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have questions or concerns about health insurance.
GAU Bargaining Committee
Fellow graduate assistants,
On Monday, March 30th, GAU's Bargaining Committee conducted an impact bargaining session with UF's administration over the impacts of its emergency measures and mandates during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) public health emergency. Impact bargaining is the process by which a labor union negotiates with the employer over the impacts of decisions they have made. In this case, GAU is bargaining over the impacts of the University's instructions to graduate employees during the current public health crisis. This includes physical and mental safety, family and child care, access to buildings, materials, and resources, availability of Graduate and Family Housing, compensation for increased work, and COVID-19 testing.
During the virtual bargaining session, which lasted roughly an hour, GAU's Bargaining Chair Javier Mesa presented University administrators with a memorandum of understanding (PDF), which is a document by which two parties can agree to binding terms. Over the course of the session, it became clear that administrators were not ready to come to an agreement. When pressed on his willingness to sign a memorandum of understanding at all, UF's Chief Bargainer Dr. Bill Connellan responded by saying: "Do I think that we're likely to come to a memorandum of understanding? Probably not at the current time."
This is an extraordinary moment for our community and country. GAU will continue to work to represent and protect the interests of graduate employees. GAs deserve better, it's that simple.
Please watch our first impact bargaining session below or on our YouTube channel, and let us know what stands out to you. Is there a specific topic or argument that you believe we missed, a response from the Administration that angered you, or a topic of particular importance to you and your family? We have identified relevant segments below for viewing.
In addition, during bargaining with UFF, Dr. Bill Connellan stated that the University is not responsible for caring for parent-GAs, ignoring the concerns of parent-GAs that they will be unfairly penalized for failing to maintain regular work hours due to caring for a child at home, a loved one, or themselves.
Please comment below or send us an email at email@example.com. We want to hear your feedback. We are your union, your voice.
GAU Bargaining Committee
Collective bargaining is the process by which labor unions negotiate with employers to reach a contract on terms of employment, including salary, health care, benefits, and workplace safety. Each year, GAU bargains with UF over such terms.