By Denise Dick
The faculty union at Youngs-town State University contends the university is exaggerating its expenses and understating revenues.
Without comment, university trustees on Friday voted to reject a fact finder’s report that would have given YSU faculty raises of 0 percent, 1 percent and 2 percent in the first, second and third years of an agreement, respectively.
Trustees Millicent S. Counts, David Charles Deibel, Sudershan K. Garg, John R. Jakubek, Leonard D. Schiavone, Scott Schulick and Carole S. Weimer rejected the report. Trustees Delores Crawford and Harry Meshel were absent.
“While the fact finder acknowledges the difficult budgetary circumstances facing the university, his recommendations outlined in the report do not allow us to sufficiently address those challenges,” Garg, trustees chairman, said afterward in a written statement.
Faculty union members voted to accept the report and also voted to authorize a 10-day strike notice. The notice will be delivered to the State Employment Relations Board next week.
The current pact expires Wednesday.
Julia Gergits, union president, said the fact that members voted to accept the fact finder’s report even though it involves deep concessions shows their dedication to the university and students.
“This would have been the worst contract that we’ve ever had, and still the faculty voted to accept it,” she said.
The faculty doesn’t want to strike, Gergits said.
Stanley Guzell, the union’s chief negotiator, said the union went into negotiations recognizing these are economically-challenging times.
“Our initial offer was concessionary,” Guzell said. “That has never happened — never.”
In the university’s statement, Garg and YSU President Cynthia E. Anderson called on the faculty to return to the bargaining table as soon as possible to resume negotiating.
“These are unprecedented and uncertain economic times,” Garg said. “It is our responsibility to ensure the fiscal health of the institution today and into the future. The recommendations included in this report do now allow us to fulfill that responsibility.”
Guzell said a federal mediator who sat in on negotiations last spring has offered to return and play a more active role, and he said he welcomes that. The union is willing to return to bargaining, although members believe they’ve given enough, he said.
Guzell in a statement questioned what the university calls its dire financial condition.
He said the fact finder’s recommendations would have cost YSU $1.3 million — less than half the amount generated by the 3.5 percent tuition increase effective this fall.
Guzell also pointed out that what YSU initially said was a $9.5 million deficit “immediately shrank to $1.67 [million] when they had to present honest numbers to the trustees.” Even that amount is suspect, he said in the statement.
“In 2010, in the midst of what they portrayed in fact-finding as ‘dire’ financial circumstances, President Anderson accepted a 30.24 percent increase in pay over that of her 10-year veteran predecessor, and Provost [Ikram] Khawaja accepted a 4.7 percent increase,” Guzell said in the statement. “On average, higher-level administrators gave themselves more than 6 percent raises. Can anyone believe that this is how an administration would act if [it] really were in ‘dire’ circumstances?”
Another change recommended by the fact finder was the amount paid for summer instruction, which is outside of the nine-month teaching contract for the regular school year.
The current formula multiplies 0.0375 times the number of credit hours taught during the summer session times the base salary of the faculty member. YSU wanted the pay to be reduced, knocking the multiplier down 40 percent to 0.0225.
The faculty proposed a reduction of the multiplier to 0.0360 or 4 percent.
The fact finder agreed with the union.
The fact finder’s report, though, recommended the university’s proposal on health-care insurance coverage — which would require union members to bear 15 percent of the monthly health-care coverage premium for both family and individual plans.
Under the pact that expires next week, faculty members contribute 1.5 percent of their base salary for family health insurance and 0.75 percent for individual coverage.
Guzell’s statement says that the administration has more than adequate reserves, revenues and already-offered concessions from the union.
“And yet, it continues to hide substantial additional funds by being vague about savings being accumulated now and for years to come from unfilled faculty and staff vacancies,” his statement says.
The university has the money; it just doesn’t want to spend it on its faculty, he said.
Negotiations between the two entities began in February, and the university also is negotiating with the union representing its classified employees.
“I want to ensure students and the community, as well as the faculty and all employees, that we are committed to negotiating a contract that is fair for all parties and is within the financial means of the university,” Anderson said in YSU’s statement. “We look forward to resuming negotiations with our faculty, reaching a settlement and moving forward in serving our students and community.”