FAQs about the GEO Stipend Increase

Stipend Increase Schedule

Q: When are the increases going to be implemented?

A: Here is the “tentative” schedule from the University: The lump sum retroactive payment for the FY10 1.5% base stipend increase will be paid on the January 21, 2011 paydate.

The new stipend rates for the FY11 2.5% base stipend increase will be set in the February 18, 2011 pay advice, including any 1.0% pool minimum stipend adjustments.  The lump sum retroactive payment for the FY11 stipend increases will be paid on the March 4, 2011 paydate.

Q: Why is it called a “tentative” schedule?

A: Juan Jarrett tells us that his email used the term “tentative” because he once had an issue with processing four years of bulk retro payments after Mitt Romney had held up all pay increases during his term as Massachusetts Governor.  The processing was held up briefly after the schedule was announced, so he now uses the term “tentative”.

Q: Why are the raises occurring so late?

A: The first raise should have gone into effect on August 30, 2009.  The second raise should have gone into effect on August 30, 2010.  The University did not comply with these dates, which we negotiated in the last contract, because the Massachusetts state legislature never passed legislation approving the funding appropriation for our contract.

Over the last Summer, the University came to the unions on campus that had unfunded contracts with a request that they open the contracts to take concessions, pushing raises back a year and eliminating retro pay.  GEO and UAW Local 2322 were adamant that we would not open the contracts to take concessions, particularly because the University could offer no guarantee that the concessionary contracts would ever be funded.  When the University was sending the other campus unions’ modified contracts to the legislature, they asked that the Governor’s office send our contract funding bill to the legislature again.  The Governor’s Office responded that they had made other changes to the University’s budget that should allow them to fund the GEO contract out of the University’s budget.

Q: Why are the raises happening in the Spring instead of this pay cycle?

A: The University has provided us two reasons for this.  First, the payroll department is going into their crunchtime for the year – preparing for year-end tax reporting.  Second, the Graduate Assistantship Office is already processing Spring 2011 Graduate Fellowship and Assistantship Forms (GFAF’s), popularly known as department contracts.  These contracts have been written with the old department rates, because departments have not received guidance from human resources on their new rates (including the pool, etc.).

Because of this, the University is concerned that, if they implemented the raises now, people will see a raise this semester and then a return to their old rate at the start of the Spring semester, while the University tries to fix the rates in the new Spring GFAF’s.  People would eventually get all of their pay, but it would be a confusing way to implement the system, and it would also hold up the AY2010-2011 pool calculation, which has to be based on weighted averages of stipends that have received the AY2009-2010 increases.

Pool Calculations

Q: What is the Pool?

A: The pool is an increase to the lowest minimum stipends on campus by an amount calculated by “multiplying the total campus state- and GOF –funded bargaining unit payroll in effect on September 5, 2010 by one (1) percent.”  This amount of money is “used to raise the lowest minimum stipends across campus to a level possible with this amount. Those schools, colleges, and executive areas so leveled by this pool shall have a new minimum stipend corresponding to the new level. Graduate student employees in said school, college, or executive area shall have their stipend increased to the new minimum, if necessary” (GEO Contract, Article 32, §2).

Q: Why do we have a pool?

A: The pool reflects GEO’s desire to level out the minimum stipends across campus by bringing up the lowest department stipends rather than setting artificially low minimums across the whole campus.  The use of the pool in contracts over the last two decades has lessened disparities between department minimums to the point where there could be one campus-wide minimum stipend within the next round of bargaining.

Retro Payments

Q: How will people who have left the University get their retro?

A: The University attempt to contact former Graduate Student Employees (GSE’s) eligible for retro payments, and will send checks to the addresses people left on file with their departments.  If a check has not been deposited by the time it is voided, the money will be sent to the state’s unclaimed funds account in the GSE’s name.

Q: What taxes will be applied to the retro checks?

A: For currently active GSE’s, members current withholding rates will be applied to the payments.  For former GSE’s receiving lump sum retro checks, the Massachusetts supplemental income tax rate will apply.  That rate is 25% Federal, 5.3% MA.  This is likely a higher marginal rate than what people currently pay, so there will be more money withheld from that check than there would be for their typical withholding.  As always, people should be sure to get their W-2 following the end of the calendar year 2011 so that they can receive a tax refund if they are owed one.

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