By Abigail Cloutier
Youngstown State University’s board of trustees voted to reject the fact-finder’s report on faculty contract negotiations Monday night. An impartial judge put the report together after contract negotiations between YSU’s faculty union and the university administration stalled this summer. Among other things, the report called for a 6% pay increase for faculty in 2% increments for several years. The report also rejected a “Force Majeure” provision. Traditionally, this “Act of God” clause would free the university of liability or obligation towards fulfilling the contract if a circumstance beyond their control were to occur.
In a news release Monday, the board rejected the report, stating the suggested pay increase “shows a lack of appreciation and understanding of the extremely difficult and tenuous financial circumstances facing the university and all of higher education.” The university cited state funding cuts of over one million and a loss of revenue from tuition at approximately three million. The university also cited recommendations in the report as “unclear, ambiguous and confusing and lack any significant analysis or explanation,” ultimately leading to their rejection.
Less than a week beforehand, YSU’s chapter of the Ohio Education Association voted overwhelmingly to accept the report. Union spokesperson and professor Mark Vopat released a statement following the rejection.
“The YSU-OEA is troubled that the BoT has chosen not to accept the fair and unbiased proposal by the independent fact-finder, and has instead chosen to prolong negotiations and add uncertainty during a difficult period,” he said. “We hope that we are able to go back to the table and negotiate a fair and reasonable contract. We remain confident in the findings of the report and are eager to support our membership in the upcoming negotiations.”
In an email from President Tressel on Monday, he reassured the student body negotiations would move forward without disruption.
“The administration, faculty and staff believe we can resolve the contract without any disruption to university operations. We will keep you posted on any updates,” he said. “Most importantly, we want you to know that all of us are committed to ensuring a successful completion of the fall semester.”
A negotiations meeting between the union and board occured Oct. 7. After the meeting, YSU-OEA released a statement stating contract negotiations stalled yet again.
“This is tantamount to turning back the clock, scuttling months of negotiations and returning us to the very impasse that fact finding was meant to overcome,” Vopat said.
The union brought new proposals to the meeting that, according to the release, were rejected. The union plans on releasing evidence presented during fact-finding today. This includes the university’s budget.
“The parties exchanged proposals but were too far apart to make meaningful progress,” the release said.
Last Thursday, the faculty union submitted a procedural strike notification contingent on both the rejection of the fact-finder’s report and the continued stall of negotiations. YSU-OEA would need to vote again to go on strike. If approved, the strike could begin Oct. 12, the first day of fall break. According to the union, the lack of progress in Wednesday’s meeting brings them one step closer to a strike.
If a strike is put in place, the university may attempt to utilize other resources such as substitute professors to ensure that education is not disrupted. According to Vopat, faculty are not required to accept student work done under a substitute if faculty are re-hired before the end of the semester in the event of a strike.
The board of trustees did not respond to the Jambar’s request for comment.