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Tentative agreement struck between UC and postdoctoral scholars, academic researchers, but strike to continue

UCI students walk the campus ring mall road.
UCI students walk the campus ring road past the student union building in support of 48,000 unionized academic workers across the University of California system, who walked off the job in mid-November.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)
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Strikes are expected to continue into their third week at campuses throughout the University of California system, even as officials there announced that tentative agreements have been reached between the universities and their postdoctoral scholars and academic researchers.

Union representatives affirmed their intentions Tuesday to not cross the line for the 36,000 graduate student workers that still have not reached an agreement with university officials.

“We are proud to have reached agreements that address the soaring cost of living and reflect the value of our contributions at UC,” said Neal Sweeney, president of UAW Local 5810, in a statement.

“These agreements represent a new, best-in-class model that will improve quality of life — and the quality of research — for scientists across the U.S.,” Sweeney said. “It is now time for UC to make serious proposals to academic student employees and student researchers and to reach fair agreements that recognize the contributions these workers make.”

A statement announcing the tentative agreements by the four unions further added, “These victories would not have happened without the solidarity of all 48,000 academic workers, especially the 36,000 academic student employees and student researchers.”

“Now, UC can no longer use [academic researchers] & [postdoctoral] bargaining as an excuse to delay making counter proposals to [academic student emplyoees] and [student researchers] on compensation and other topics,” the statement issued by the unions reads. “We expect that they will make serious proposals this week. Postdocs & ARs will do everything in their power to support ASEs and SRs until they reach fair agreements.”

Postdoctoral students and researchers account for roughly 12,000 of the some 48,000 academic workers that have been on strike since Nov. 14 in what has been described as the largest academic strike in history.

Workers have been asking for not only increased pay and benefits but also childcare subsidies, better healthcare for dependents and greater financial support for international scholars. The new, five-year contracts for postdoctoral scholars and researchers address compensation, job security and family leave, according to the university system.

Postdoctoral scholars are expected to see implementation of a new salary scale in April with average salary increases of 8%, annual reimbursement for childcare expenses up to $2,500 and paid leave of up to eight weeks.

Meanwhile, researchers should expect pay increases of 4.5% in the first year, 3.5% in the second, third and fourth years and 4% in the fifth year of the contract. Additionally, they will receive the same eight weeks of paid leave and increased bereavement leave.

Negotiations began in July 2021 for postdoctoral scholars and in May this year for academic researchers.

“Our dedicated colleagues are vital to UC’s research activities and we are very pleased to have reached agreements that honor their many important contributions,” Letitia Silas, executive director of systemwide labor relations, said in a statement. “These agreements also uphold our tradition of supporting these employees with compensation and benefits packages that are among the best in the country.”

City News Service contributed to this report.

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