Following last-minute contract negotiations yesterday morning, the University of California averted a potential teaching assistants’ strike when it agreed to increase the campus employees’ wages.

The United Auto Workers Local 2865, a labor union which represents over 12,000 TAs, readers and tutors reached a tentative contract deal with the UC at 10 a.m. yesterday. The union and University negotiated well past the midnight deadline on September 30, extending the contract on an hour-by-hour basis. According to a UC Office of the President press release, the new contract consists of wage increases, improved healthcare and childcare and new workload protections.

The UC and UAW are currently withholding further details until union members evaluate the agreement and vote on it. The release also stated that the contract and benefits offered to student employees will make the UC campuses more competitive in comparison to the wages stipulated at other colleges and universities.

Nicole Savickas, UC Office of the President human resources and labor relations coordinator, said the university and union representatives reached a tentative contract after several hours of discussion.

“The negotiators were working through the weekend and last night [Sunday],” Savickas said.

The UAW 2865 Web site places the current yearly TA salary at an average of $15,610.50 per academic year. For UCSB graduate students living off-campus, the UC Office of the President’s 2007-08 expense budget for graduate students estimates the yearly living cost at $30,284.

If ratified by union members, this agreement will become the fourth official contract between UAW and the University. The previous contract between the UC Board of Regents and the union was established last October. The union began negotiations for the new contract in March.

Following the bargaining committee’s negotiations, Daraka Larimore-Hall, UCSB Unit Chair for UAW and sociology graduate student, said it is now up to UAW members to review the new agreement and vote on it in the near future.

“We have signed a tentative agreement with the University and we will be releasing details after our members have hade a chance to examine and vote on ratification, which will be in the next couple of weeks,” Larimore-Hall said.

The agreement staves off the proposed strike, which promised to disrupt undergraduate classes. Larimore-Hall said the union represents about 1,200 academic student workers at UCSB.

In an email, Chancellor Henry T. Yang stated that UCSB supports its academic workers and their contributions to the university and its students.

“We value our teaching assistants at UC Santa Barbara, and we support them in their negotiations, which are being conducted at a system-wide level,” Yang wrote.

Meanwhile, Erik Love, a UCSB teaching assistant, said he had mixed feelings about the contract, citing a Sept. 27 union charge. On that date, UAW alleged that the university was stalling discussions and conducting dishonest bargaining dealings.

“I’m upset that once again, the UC was resorting to its illegal tactics,” Love said. “But obviously, I’m happy about the contract and eager to get back to work.”