YSU and OEA at odds over fact-finder report

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Members of the YSU-OEA executive and negotiation committees met this weekend to discuss recommendations from the report and to discuss next steps for YSU-OEA

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – The administration at Youngstown State University and its faculty union have been trying to negotiate a contract, but both sides have differing opinions on what’s inside a fact-finder’s report.

Members of the YSU-OEA executive and negotiation committees met this weekend to discuss recommendations shared by Judge Betty Widgeon in her post-mediation fact-finding report released Friday and to discuss next their steps.

Overall, the union found Widgeon’s recommendations were fair and reasonable.

The proposals are based on sworn testimony and data presented by both sides, including financial and budget documents.

YSU-OEA leadership believes the recommendations, which consistently support retaining current contract language, validate their requests to postpone negotiations to the next year because of the pandemic–appeals the administration repeatedly denied.

“Had the administration agreed to our reasonable requests to postpone negotiations back in March, during the chaos of the pandemic, much valuable time, energy and resources could have been saved by both parties and directed to the essential academic needs of the university and our students,” said Mark Vopat, YSU-OEA spokesperson.

University officials said in a letter to union representatives that they are “overall, very disappointed.”

Kevin Kralj, JD, YSU director of labor and employee relations, wrote that the report recommends a 6% pay increase over three years while other employees have taken pay cuts.

“Nearly all non-faculty employees have accepted salary reductions of 15%, furloughs and layoffs.  If the terms of this report are put into place, it will create inequities across employee groups,” Kralj wrote.

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

Widgeon represents an impartial party jointly chosen by YSU-OEA and YSU administration and approved by the State Employment Relations Board to present mediation between the two parties.

She said she hoped her report “will allow the parties to go forward in pursuing the central objective of their work: providing the best university education possible for the students entrusted to their care and instruction.”

YSU-OEA committee members believe Widgeon’s recommendations will allow both the union and the administration the opportunity to work on improving their relationship over the next three years, but it also makes sure no major changes are made on either side that could affect the entire university community during an already uncertain time.

“We are committed to defending the rights of faculty to have a fair contract, which means we can dedicate ourselves to creating and environment that puts student success first–particularly during an incredibly uncertain pandemic period,” Vopat said.

YSU-OEA membership will meet Tuesday to discuss the fact-finder’s report and to open voting to membership on whether to accept or reject the report.

It is anticipated that YSU administration and the Board of Trustees will vote to accept or reject the report following the trustee’s meeting next Monday.

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