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NEGOTIATIONS ACE crafts response to YSU's offering



Published: Sat, August 13, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



A YSU vice president says the university's final contract proposal isn't very flexible.

By DAVID SKOLNICK

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

YOUNGSTOWN -- The president of Youngstown State University's nonfaculty union said she's optimistic that a deal will be worked out in time to avoid a potential strike by her union Tuesday.

Christine Domhoff, head of the 400-member union, said her negotiating team is preparing a package to present to YSU officials at a 9:30 a.m. Monday meeting.

The proposal, she said, would keep the cost of YSU's "last, best and final" offer at the same amount. However, it would eliminate a YSU provision to have members of the Association of Classified Employees pay a percentage of their health care premiums.

Domhoff says she thinks YSU officials would be receptive to changes that wouldn't cost any more money than the final offer.

Official's perspective

But John Habat, vice president for administration, says the university doesn't plan to stray from its final offer.

"A final offer is a final offer," he said. "How else do you define that? We'll meet Monday to answer any questions about our offer. It's a final offer, and we wait to hear their response."

The three-year proposal called for annual wage increases of 2 percent, 4 percent and 3 percent. The contract includes employee contributions toward health care premiums in the second and third years of the contract -- 1.5 percent of base pay for ACE members with family coverage and 0.75 percent for single coverage.

Even with employee contributions, the cost to YSU for this union's health care plan is about $1.5 million over three years, Habat said. He said he'd be "surprised to see a viable plan" from ACE that addresses the finances of health care.

As an alternative to paying any of their hospitalization costs, the ACE negotiating team is discussing possible increases in prescription drug co-payments and having spouses of union members who have health care plans at their places of work no longer use YSU's plan as their primary insurance coverage, Domhoff said.

The union wants annual raises of 3.75 percent, 4 percent and 4.25 percent, and no employee contribution to health care premiums.

Retirement incentive

While ACE negotiators favor a YSU proposal to have the university buy two years toward union members' retirement, the proposal may be too costly, Domhoff said.

Domhoff said the cost of the proposal and the number of union members who would qualify are still undetermined.

She estimates that about 75 ACE members would qualify, and it would cost YSU about $70,000 to buy two years toward retirement. Domhoff said she's waiting to hear from the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System to get accurate figures.

The ACE negotiating team is looking to reconfigure that incentive to make it less costly to the university.

Habat said the university hasn't determined who would be eligible, and YSU wouldn't go into debt to fund the early retirement proposal.

But he questions ACE's preliminary calculations.

That's because the university contributes 13.2 percent of an amount equal to a person's salary toward retirement, and the employee contributes an amount equal to 8.5 percent of his or her salary for a total of 21.7 percent of an amount equal to an employee's salary.

It would cost YSU about $21,700 to pay a two-year early retirement incentive to an ACE member making $50,000 annually.

The 380-member faculty union filed a notice of intent to strike effective Aug. 23 if a new contract isn't settled by then. That union meets with YSU officials Monday to negotiate.

skolnick@vindy.com




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