Union contends university must detail health costs
By Denise Dick
Health-insurance costs continue to be a stumbling block in reaching a settlement between Youngstown State University and its faculty union.
The two sides, along with representatives from the university’s Association of Classified Employees, met for more than three hours Monday afternoon.
“There was a lot of discussion but no substantive progress,” said Ron Cole, university spokesman.
Additional talks are expected, he said.
Sherry Linkon, spokeswoman for the faculty union, said the union has already agreed to pay 15 percent of the premium on average for health insurance. But the university hasn’t said what that premium will be for the second and third years of the contract.
“So it’s just 15 percent of whatever,” she said.
Linkon said that the cost of the premium the first year is more than $1 million more that it was last year.
She acknowledged that health-care costs fluctuate but said the university routinely budgets for those costs, making educated guesses based on previous years.
“We have never before been asked to agree to pay an unspecified amount,” Linkon said in an email.
The union also wants to find a way to lower the health-insurance contribution for those who make less, while those who earn more would pay more, she said.
“We’re continuing conversations on that,” Linkon said.
She contends that all proposals brought to the table by the faculty union have fit within the boundaries of costs spelled out in the university’s last, best offer.
“We’re just trying to move things around to make it more fair to individuals,” Linkon said.
But Cole said that at the first meeting between the two sides after the university issued the last, best offer, the union brought a proposal that included wage increases and other costs totaling more than $1 million more than the costs of the administration’s last, best offer.
The faculty, whose average annual salary is about $72,200, has been working without a contract since Aug. 17 when the previous pact expired.
Last month, the union accepted and university trustees rejected a fact- finder’s report.
YSU then issued what it termed its last, best offer calling for no pay increases the first two years with a 2 percent increase in the third and final year.
The offer also called for increases in union members’ health insurance contributions. Under the just-expired contract, faculty members pay 1.5 percent of a monthly salary for the family health-care plan.
Under the proposal, that faculty member would contribute 10 percent of the cost of the health-care premium in year one, and 12 percent and 15 percent in years two and three.
The union rejected the last, best offer and said it would strike beginning Aug. 26. A few hours after that announcement though, union representatives said they wouldn’t strike and would return to the negotiating table instead.
That allowed classes to start Aug. 29 as scheduled.