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YOUNGSTOWN STATE UNIVERSITY Pact awaits ratification



Published: Tue, August 30, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



The settlement came less than a day after ACE members had rejected an earlier offer.

By HAROLD GWIN

VINDICATOR EDUCATION WRITER

YOUNGSTOWN -- They're back at work, but members of Youngstown State University's classified employees union have yet to ratify the terms of a proposed new contract.

The Association of Classified Employees and YSU administrative negotiating teams reached tentative agreement on a three-year contract around 5 a.m. Monday, just hours before the start of classes for the fall semester.

Christine Domhoff, ACE president, said the settlement, which ends a strike that began Aug. 16, has to be in writing and presented to her 400 members at least 24 hours before a ratification vote can be held.

The document could be ready late Wednesday, which would allow a ratification vote sometime Thursday, but that may be a bit optimistic, she said. The vote could be Friday or even next week, she said.

A university spokesman said the YSU Board of Trustees hasn't set a time to vote on the proposed contract.

The settlement came less than 24 hours after ACE members had rejected an earlier university offer.

Domhoff seemed less than thrilled with the final version.

"It's not, in my estimation, an agreement that respects the bargaining unit at all," she said.

"I will recommend it to the bargaining unit. I have to. That's part of the terms of the tentative agreement," Domhoff said.

Considering the students

ACE and the university pushed for a settlement to get the classified employees back to work for the start of classes Monday.

"This was about the students," Domhoff said, offering one reason ACE members are willing to return to their jobs before the contract is ratified. Another is that the university agreed to make health insurance coverage retroactive to the start of the strike if workers returned Monday.

Domhoff said about 80 percent of her union reported for work Monday and the rest would be on the job today.

Dr. David Sweet, YSU president, said the past two weeks have been difficult for everyone and he expressed gratitude to those who helped maintain university operations during the work stoppages and the bargaining teams for bringing negotiations to a conclusion.

He also expressed appreciation to pickets who exercised their right to strike while showing respect for those who came to campus.

"It's time for the healing process to begin," Sweet said Monday.

The 380-member YSU faculty union ratified terms of a new three-year contract Sunday night, ending their strike, which began Aug. 23, and getting instructors back in the classroom Monday.

The Internal Affairs Committee of the Board of Trustees voted Saturday to recommend that the full board approve the faculty contract, but the trustees haven't sent a time to vote on that contract either.

Problems didn't pan out

There were some concerns that the confusion surrounding the strikes would make Monday a tough day for YSU students, particularly those new to campus, who were trying to find classes, change schedules or visit the financial aid office.

However, the day appeared to come off with no more problems than a normal start of a semester, said Dr. Cynthia Anderson, vice president for student affairs.

First-day enrollment reached 12,771 students, she said, adding that the university, as it has done in recent years, set up student help stations at three key locations around campus offering assistance with things such as class schedules and campus maps.

A check of those help desks at mid-day showed that few students had stopped by for assistance. Most seemed to know where they were going and what they were doing, and some were just asking other students for directions, one desk worker said.

There were also Office of Student Affairs representatives stationed in every academic building offering the same help, and all windows in the financial aid office were open to work with students, Anderson said.

Domhoff credited state Sen. Marc Dann of Liberty Township, D-32nd, with helping to resolve the contract dispute.

The bargaining teams began meeting at 10 p.m. Sunday and didn't wrap up until about 5 a.m. Monday.

"He remained with us all night," Domhoff said. "I think he deserves a great deal of the credit [for the settlement]."

gwin@vindy.com




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