3-year pact OK'd for classified union

YSU trustees will consider a fact finder's report at a meeting Monday, and faculty members will vote on it Monday and Tuesday.
YOUNGSTOWN -- Youngstown State University trustees approved a three-year contract with its classified employees union that calls for at least 3 percent annual raises and will consider Monday a fact finder's report that suggests an annual pay increase up to 6.2 percent for faculty members.
YSU trustees met in executive session Friday for about 2 1/2 hours discussing the classified union contract and the fact finder's report. The trustees, who received the fact finder's report only hours before the closed-door meeting, opted to hold off on a vote to approve or reject the report until a meeting at 4 p.m. Monday.
Trustees declined to discuss the fact finder's report, but sources at the executive session said the trustees are giving careful deliberation to the recommendations and are concerned about the financial impact the proposal would have on the university.
The fact finder's nonbinding report has to be approved by a majority vote of the trustees and the faculty union, the 350-member YSU Ohio Education Association. The faculty union will vote on the report Monday and Tuesday.
Robert G. Stein, the fact finder, gave his recommendation on nine issues, siding with the university on five and the union on four.
Stein sided with the faculty on pay increases, agreeing that their proposed 3.5 percent annual raise request for three years "does not represent an unreasonable demand." The university was offering 3 percent annual raises. The 0.5 percent difference between what the union wants and what the university is offering would cost about $420,000 annually to YSU, Stein wrote.
But the fact finder's report doesn't tell the whole story.
Additional costs
A memo written by Joseph Edwards, YSU's chief negotiator for the OEA contract talks, and Tom Maraffa, director of faculty relations, to academic deans and department chairs states that if the fact finder's report is adopted, it would mean additional costs to the university.
The memo states the union's proposal, which Stein is recommending, also includes a $1,000 per faculty member lump-sum payment that would be included in employees' base salary as well as a bonus up to $1,000 annually for increases in full-time-equivalent student enrollment.
Faculty would get a $325 bonus if enrollment increases by 250 students, $650 if enrollment increases by 375 students and $1,000 if enrollment increases by 500 students. Enrollment increased by about 400 students last year.
With the 3.5 percent pay raise, the $1,000 lump-sum payment and a maximum $1,000 enrollment incentive, faculty salaries would increase by an average of 6.2 percent in one year.
An average YSU full professor earns $71,335 annually; an average YSU associate professor earns $54,702; an average assistant professor earns $45,527; and an average YSU instructor earns $33,910. A recent survey of 11 Ohio universities shows YSU has the highest percentage of full professors among those polled.
Attempts to reach John Russo, faculty union president, for comment were not successful.
Strike date
The union's contract with YSU is set to expire Wednesday. Faculty leadership has said it will strike Aug. 26, the first day of fall classes, if there is no settlement. YSU officials say classes will be held if a strike occurs.
In the memo, Edwards and Maraffa wrote that the "university will have to make budget cuts in order to handle this significant reduction in revenue," referring to a $2.7 million state budget cut to YSU in late June.
Regarding health care, the fact finder ruled in favor of the university's proposal, which he wrote is more costly than the union's proposal.
YSU would increase medical coverage but would require $10 co-payments for doctor office visits; the union proposed $5 co-payments. Both sides agreed to eliminate the traditional medical coverage plan, something the classified employees also approved. The elimination of that plan will save the university about $300,000 annually.
The faculty wants YSU to cover medical costs of "members of household." Stein wrote he could not recommend that because the phrase is too general.
The trustees approved a three-year contract Friday with the YSU-Association of Classified Employees, which represent about 370 nonteaching employees ranging from clerical, maintenance, grounds keeping and library workers to computer operators. The union had sought a 6 percent annual increase initially, and the university offered a 2 percent annual increase. The two sides agreed on a 3 percent increase.
Each classified union member who averages $35,000 annually in salary will also receive a student enrollment incentive. Their incentive is a $200 lump-sum payment if enrollment increases by 250 students, $400 if enrollment increases by 375 students and $600 if enrollment goes up by 500 students.
Union members will have to pay a $5 co-payment for doctor office visits, compared to nothing under their former contract. But the university increased benefits for vision and annual physicals to family members.

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