Faculty union wants administration to follow through on shared sacrifice
By Denise Dick
The vote is in and now the healing, hopefully, can begin.
By what leaders called a close vote, the union representing Youngstown State University faculty accepted a tentative agreement that spells out terms for a new three-year contract.
Both Julia Gergits, president of the YSU chapter of the Ohio Education Association, and Stan Guzell, chief union negotiator, expressed hope after Tuesday’s vote that the administration would work with them to repair damage done to faculty morale.
They said in a news release that they hope the administration follows through on its promise of shared sacrifice.
Gergits said that morale is low because of the concessionary contract.
“In every part, it’s concessionary,” including the noneconomic aspects, she said.
Although neither the union nor the administration has divulged agreement details, The Vindicator has learned that it calls for no raises in the first two years with a 2 percent increase in the third and final year.
The employee health-care contribution also would increase in an amount that equals 10 percent the first year, 12 percent the second and 15 percent the final year.
The formula developed for health care is income-based, meaning those who make more will pay more while those making less will pay less.
A third tier also was added for health care, allowing a category for single-plus-one in addition to single and family coverage.
The pact also reduces summer-school pay from 3.75 percent of a faculty member’s nine-month salary per credit hour to 3.25 percent of the salary per credit hour. It caps the salary amount upon which that calculation is based at $80,000. There was no cap in the just-expired contract.
The vote totals weren’t disclosed, but Guzell said about two-thirds of the union voted.
On Monday, members of the Association of Classified Employees, which represents clerical, maintenance and other university employees, approved a tentative agreement reached last month with YSU.
That proposal also calls for no raises the first two years with a 2 percent increase the third year.
ACE officials said Tuesday that 253 members voted and the final count was 190 yes, 63 no. ACE employees’ health-care contributions also will increase to 10 percent of the premium the first year, 12 percent the second and 15 percent the third year. Gone is the controversial enrollment bonus.
University trustees are to meet Oct. 11 and are expected to vote on both proposed contracts.
“I want to thank the members of the faculty and classified staff unions for ratifying these new three-year contracts,” YSU President Cynthia E. Anderson said in a statement. “I want to thank the faculty and staff employees for recognizing the difficult financial challenges facing the university and agreeing to make concessions to help address those challenges. And, finally, I want to thank the negotiating teams for both of the unions as well as the administration for their many, many hours of dedicated service and commitment to the university.
“We look forward to putting this round of negotiations behind us and moving forward as a team to provide the academic and other services to ensure the success of our students.”
Faculty union representatives said the university’s use of a “high-priced Cleveland attorney” made the process longer and more confrontational than necessary. The law firm Zashin & Rich represented YSU in the negotiations.
Guzell said that was disappointing because Anderson told union representatives in December that the negotiating process would be smooth and that any outside attorneys would be in the background.
Gergits, who was union president in 2005 when the union went on strike, said the negotiation process this time was even uglier than it was then.
“We felt very much taken by surprise,” she said.
They were led to believe the negotiating process would be more like what it was in 2008. The way the process went means the union likely will adopt a different approach for the next contract, she said.
Also included in the proposed contract is a reconstituting of an health-care advisory panel, which includes representatives of all university unions and the administration. The change provides more administration representatives, the union said.
That panel is to make recommendations for health-care coverage and cost savings.
Gergits said it will be interesting to see if those recommendations are adopted.