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Fact finder to make his suggestions



Published: Wed, August 3, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



The union's contract expires Aug. 15.

By DAVID SKOLNICK

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

YOUNGSTOWN -- A fact finder is expected to issue his recommendations later this week regarding contract negotiations between Youngstown State University and its classified civil service staff union.

Both sides presented their proposals Thursday to fact finder Norman Harlan of Montgomery, W.Va. Harlan is looking at 26 outstanding items, and has the authority to offer his own proposals based on the information provided by both parties, said James Wilkins, an attorney who is YSU's chief negotiator for the ACE contract.

The university and the 400-member YSU Association of Classified Employees union came to agreements on 16 other contract articles.

Among the outstanding issues are wages, health care, pay for holidays and unused sick days, and retirement perks.

Harlan is expected to give his nonbinding recommendations to both sides Thursday or Friday, and each side has up to seven days after receiving them to vote, Wilkins said.

Harlan's recommendations for a contract settlement would be adopted unless three-fifths of the union's membership or three-fifths of the YSU trustees reject them, Wilkins said. If that happens, it's back to the bargaining table, he said.

Pay program

The university increased the pay raises from its initial offer in late May of 1.5 percent annually for three years, to 2 percent in the first year, 2.2 percent in the second year and 3 percent in the third year. (With step increases, the raises are 3 percent, 3.3 percent and 4 percent.) ACE isn't budging from its initial request of 5 percent annual pay raises.

ACE reduced its enrollment incentive request during negotiations. The union is proposing an enrollment incentive up to $1,200 annually to be added to their base salary rate. The union's initial proposal sought an incentive up to $1,350.

The university wants to eliminate the enrollment incentive.

The current ACE contract, which expires Aug. 15, calls for union members to receive up to $600 a year in enrollment incentives. Union members received $400 last year under the enrollment incentive clause.

ACE also wants signing bonuses of $600 this year, $700 next year and $800 in 2007.

YSU wants to eliminate longevity pay for new hires, and modify the pay schedule for them by having new employees move to the next payment step every three years instead of annually.

The union wants a shift differential, hazardous duty pay, pay increases for holding certain licenses and certifications, and the same longevity table for all workers.

"These employees are compensated very well," Wilkins said. "I'd like to be optimistic and I hope for an approval. What we offered is fair."

Christine Domhoff, ACE union president, couldn't be reached Tuesday to comment.

A possible strike

In a Thursday letter to ACE members, Ivan Maldonado, the union's vice president, wrote: "It is with profound regret that I must inform you that little progress has been made toward achieving a new collective bargaining agreement. Your negotiations team has offered numerous proposals on all pertinent articles, yet management's response has been anemic at best."

In the letter, Maldonado criticized Wilkins as someone "incapable of negotiating a fair, equitable and timely contract."

He wrote that six dates -- Aug. 16, 17, 18, 19, 22 and 23 -- are designated as possible strike dates, and a decision on the date would be made on "short notice," and members would be notified 24 hours before the date is selected.

Also in the letter, Maldonado wrote that ACE has the support of other area unions. He also reiterated statements made by two local union leaders at a July 21 meeting that "management in this Valley has been picking our unions off one by one. If we are not united together, we will surely fall. We have to remind management that unions built this Valley."

Health costs

In the union's fact-finding proposal, it is seeking improvements on health insurance benefits including adding coverage up to $500 for an annual physical and Lasik eye surgery into its insurance package.

ACE members pay $5 for doctor visits, $2 for generic drugs and $12 for name-brand drugs. They also don't contribute toward the payment of medical coverage.

The university wants to increase the co-payment for doctor visits to $15, and the cost of name-brand drugs to $17.

YSU also wants employees to pay 10 percent of the monthly cost of health insurance premiums. That would be $108 a month right now. To ease ACE members into contributing toward the cost, they wouldn't pay anything toward the premiums in the first year, pay 5 percent in the second year, and then go to 10 percent in the contract's third year, Wilkins said.

Days off

The union members, who get 10 full paid holidays and Election Day as a partial one, want to add five additional paid holidays and make Saturday afternoon a paid holiday.

YSU wants to keep the contract's holiday language the same except to remove a provision that permits union members to have holidays on any day recommended by the Ohio governor or president of the United States.

ACE wants to permit its members to cash in up to 80 unused sick days annually, up to 10 unused vacation days a year, and allow a cash conversion of sick leave to any member with five years of service for any reason.

The university opposes those proposals and wants to allow retirees to convert up to 1,500 hours of unused sick leave at 25 percent of the cost and nothing more.

The union also wants free membership to the YSU wellness center, hazardous duty pay, more money for working the night shift, and 15-minute breaks for every 2 hours an employee uses a computer for work. The university doesn't agree with any of those provisions.

The contract with the 380-member faculty union expires Aug. 21. The faculty union and YSU have met about 15 times and are still negotiating a contract, said Thomas Maraffa, the university's chief negotiator on the faculty contract and YSU's special assistant to the president.

skolnick@vindy.com




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