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YSU faculty vote on fact-finding report for contract

YOUNGSTOWN — The Ohio Education Association at Youngstown State University and YSU administration find themselves at opposite ends of a report on wage recommendations for a new contract.

The union is voting on this fact-finding report through noon Friday. University trustees could vote on it Monday.

The faculty union believes the recommendations in the document will not only improve its relationship with the university over the next three years but will also ensure that no major changes are made that could affect the university community, according to a news release.

But the administration expressed disappointment in the report, saying it does not take into consideration the current financial realities on campus.

The mediator, chosen by YSU and OEA, was Betty Widgeon, an Ann Arbor, Mich. judge, who recommended the faculty receive a 6 percent pay increase over three years — 2 percent per year.

Regarding how the membership will vote, spokesman Mark Vopat said he is cautiously optimistic.

“I think the fact-finder did a fair and reasonable job with the report,” he said.

But in response to the report, YSU’s chief negotiator Kevin Kralj spoke on behalf of the administration in an email to the union.

Kralj said the administration is “very disappointed on several levels.” One concern relates to inequities across employee groups.

“The report recommends a 6 percent pay increase over three years, while nearly all nonfaculty employees on campus have accepted salary reductions of up to 15 percent, furloughs and layoffs,” the email stated.

Kralj said the report lacked any significant analysis and took a “simplistic approach to very complex issues.”

Another issue the administration had with the findings was a lack of empathy regarding the financial difficulties the university is facing.

But Vopat maintained that the financial situation isn’t as bad as the university would have people believe.

The budget estimated that enrollment would drop 15 percent and anticipated a 20 percent cut financially from the state. Both of these numbers were to prepare for a worst case scenario.

But enrollment, according to YSU President Jim Tressel, is down 3.7 percent. The state budget cut stands at 3.8 percent, according to the Ohio Department of Higher Education.

As for voting on the contract, the union would need just over 40 percent “yes” votes for the union to accept the report. From there, the proposal will be voted on by the university’s board of trustees.

If trustees choose to reject the report, the university can impose its own contract, which could lead to a strike or further negotiations. The union earlier this year gave its strike authorization, if necessary.

“We’re hoping for the best but preparing for the worst,” Vopat said. “I’m unsure if the board has ever accepted a fact-finding report. For at least 20 years, they haven’t accepted one.”

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