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YSU faculty settlement remains elusive

Published: Sat, September 3, 2011 @ 12:09 a.m.

By Jeanne Starmack



After daylong negotiations, Youngstown State University’s administration and faculty did not reach an agreement Friday night on a new three-year contract, according to both the university and the union.

Talks are scheduled to resume at 10 a.m. Friday.

Stan Guzell, the union’s chief negotiator, and Ron Cole, YSU spokesman, each said both parties made several contract proposals. But Guzell said the union felt more time was needed to look over the university’s proposals.

Talks began Friday morning on the third floor at Cushwa Hall, with the YSU chapter of the Ohio Education Association saying it hoped the administration would continue to negotiate despite having issued what it called “its last and best offer.”

The union’s membership rejected that offer Aug. 26, saying it would go on strike. But hours later, the union announced it wanted to keep negotiating.

If the two sides don’t settle, the union could issue another strike notice. It would have to give notice 10 days in advance of the planned strike date.

Friday’s talks continued until about 7:30 p.m., with the union issuing a statement at 4 p.m. that its negotiators were pleased with how they were progressing.

Guzell said he was pleased that the administration appeared to be listening to the union’s proposals, though it wasn’t yet clear whether they would be accepted.

“We are committed to continuing negotiations,” he said. “We want to resolve the situation, and we brought proposals to the table to try to achieve that.”

Despite concessions from the union, the board of trustees has continued to demand sacrifices, the union said.

A fact finder’s report issued earlier this month called for raises of 0 percent, 1 percent and 2 percent and a smaller reduction in summer-school pay. The union accepted the report, but YSU trustees rejected it.

Last week, the university gave the 400-plus member union its last, best offer, calling for raises of 0 percent, 0 percent and 2 percent. It also called for a reduction of summer-school pay, from 3.75 percent of a faculty member’s nine-month salary per credit hour to teach a summer course to 3 percent of their nine-month salary per credit hour.

The university’s offer also involves faculty members’ paying 10 percent of the health-insurance premium the first year, 12 percent the second year and 15 percent the third year.

Under the contract that expired Aug. 17, members paid 1.5 percent of their salaries for health insurance for a family plan and 0.75 percent for a single plan.

Faculty salary minimums are $75,674 for professors, $64,215 for associate professors, $51,238 for assistant professors and $38,689 for instructors. Salaries range from $39,832 to $161,321, and the average salary for a faculty union member is $72,213.

“We have made many concessions already, and we have been doing everything we can to ensure that students’ lives are not disrupted,” said YSU-OEA President Julia Gergits.

Some of those students, who were waiting nearby in Cushwa Hall on Friday morning for a class to start, weighed in on just how much of a disruption they would expect.

Tina Short, a freshman psychology major from Boardman, said she is following the talks closely.

“I’m hoping they’ll settle,” said Short, who moved from Columbus this year just to attend YSU.

“I’m an older student who waited all my life to go to school,” said Short, who added that she’s a single mother of five children. “I always, always, always wanted to do it. But I had children first and didn’t get an education. So now it’s my turn.”

She plans to attend full time.

“I was in tears when they said they’d strike,” she added.

Freshman education major Patricia Searano of Cortland said she wasn’t aware the talks were continuing.

“I thought that was over,” she said, adding that she didn’t realize talks would continue after the union said it would not strike.

Searano said she believes the union’s stance is reasonable.

Paige Pierce, an architecture major from Youngstown, said she is “a little” worried about a strike. “If it messes up my [pre-requisite courses], it could set me back,” she said. “I’m not interested in coming back for a few more years of college.”

She added, though, that she believes a strike would be quickly settled.

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