The strike by teaching assistants, tutors and other academic student employees that would have started today was avoided when the University and the labor union reached a tentative contract agreement late Tuesday night.

UC and the United Auto Workers Union (UAW), the labor union that represents UC teaching assistants, would not release specifics about the tentative contract agreement until both the UC Regents and the UAW ratified it. A UCSB TA and union member who spoke on the condition of anonymity said the tentative contract allows TAs to hold sympathy strikes and it gives them a 1.5 percent pay increase that will be retroactive to Fall Quarter. He also said the University agreed to continue paying TAs’ tuition, even if graduate student fees increase in the future, as part of the new contract.

A graduate student must work as a teaching assistant for at least 10 hours per week before the University would pay his or her tuition. A TA is paid, on average, $4,000 per quarter, UAW spokeswoman Beth Rayfield said. Other details of the agreement were not available at press time.

If ratified, the new contract would become effective immediately and would expire Sept. 30, 2006, Rayfield said. She said she expects UAW members will ratify the new contract.

“It’s an excellent contract,” said Nina Kilham, recording secretary for the UCSB chapter of UAW and a member of the bargaining team. “We won a lot of rights and better wages.”

The UAW employment contract expired Sept. 30, and the union and UC have been negotiating a new contract since last March. Talks broke down early November because of what UAW called bad-faith bargaining practices on the part of the University.

“They like to sit at the table and not do anything after the meeting,” Rajan Mehta, a UAW bargaining team member at UC Berkeley, said in November. “It’s basically bullshitting us.”

Rayfield said the labor union filed 72 bad-faith bargaining practices complaints against the University during the negotiation process.

Some TAs voting today in the Arbor courtyard to either ratify or reject the tentative contract said they didn’t feel that the union kept them informed of the details of the negotiations. Stacey Van Dahm, a graduate student in the Writing Program who is teaching Writing 1 this quarter, said she had only heard about the bad-faith bargaining complaints against UC and did not know of any other items that were being negotiated. She said she was surprised by the pay increase.

“It’s minimal, but I’m very happy,” she said. “It’s hard being a graduate student in Santa Barbara … and I think TAs should be recognized for what they contribute to the University.”