Contract talks yield little harmony
Negotiations with both unions were set to resume this morning.
By HAROLD GWIN
VINDICATOR EDUCATION WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Negotiating teams for Youngstown State University and two striking employee unions got back to the bargaining table Thursday but were unable to hammer out new contracts.
The university and its faculty union spent nearly six hours negotiating but reached accord on only some minor items.
The two sides were to be back at the table at 9 a.m. today in an effort to get a new contract in place before the start of classes Monday.
Meanwhile, university representatives negotiating with classified employees spent about three hours in talks but reached no agreements, a union official said.
The 380-member faculty union went on strike Tuesday, and the 400 members of the Association of Classified Employees walked out Aug. 16.
The university issued a brief statement late Thursday saying that negotiations were under way with both unions, and it remains hopeful that classes will be conducted Monday as scheduled.
YSU has yet to reveal a contingency plan dealing with when classes will start or how they will be conducted in the event the strikes aren't resolved by that time.
Bob Hogue, first vice president of the faculty union, said agreement was reached on a few small items during Thursday's talks, the first since the strike began.
However, he said there was little movement on major issues, which include wages, health care and the pay rate for retired faculty called back to teach classes.
"It is apparent that reaching an agreement will require extraordinary commitment from both sides," Hogue said.
Negotiators on ACE contract met from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. Thursday but came to no agreement on anything, said Christine Domhoff, ACE president.
"We were clarifying the issues," she said, explaining that no written proposals were exchanged.
The two sides broke for dinner, and ACE was prepared to present a written proposal when talks were to resume at 6 p.m., she said.
However, the university's chief negotiator was unable to be present at that time, and no further negotiations were held, she said, noting that the two sides were to meet again at 8:30 a.m. today.
Wages, heath care premium contributions, early retirement incentive language, a university proposal to add a lower pay scale for new employees and union-proposed adjustments to current pay scales are still unresolved ACE contract issues.
Earlier in the day, striking members of both unions held one impromptu and one planned rally.
The first was on campus in front of Tod Hall and drew about 90 strikers chanting "Settle now" and carrying picket signs.
It also drew Nicole Cornell of Girard, a senior accelerated pre-med student at YSU who has been picketing with ACE union members and thought she had been fired as a result.
Cornell, a student secretary in planning and construction, said she joined ACE members on the picket line when the strike started Aug. 16 and was seen by her boss.
She said he indicated to her that she had lost her job as a result of the picketing, but a university spokesman said that wasn't the case.
She is still employed in the facilities office, the spokesman said, explaining that the university is giving student employees the option of working or not working during the strikes.
The second rally drew more than 250 striking members of the unions to the front lawn of First Christian Church on Wick Avenue just off campus.
The church is strike headquarters for ACE.
The rally drew speakers from the Ohio Education Association and a number of local school district teacher unions, all of whom urged the strikers to remain together and remain strong.
"We cannot let our collective bargaining be eroded," said Pat Frost-Brooks, vice president of the OEA. Workers would have no chance without it, she told the group.
A planned student rally set for noon outside Tod Hall by organizer Brad Murphy, a junior computer engineering major from Austintown, failed to materialize when only Murphy showed up.
He said he planned the rally at the last minute before learning that negotiations were to resume Thursday.
He is also a student employee at YSU and hasn't worked since the strikes began, but he wants both sides to sit down and negotiate.
Both sides have to take the students into account, he said, pledging to renew his rally efforts should talks break down.
Students have begun moving into campus residences this week with today and Saturday expected to be the biggest moving days.
The university said full services will be available to residential students, with the possible exception of residential Internet service.