By Frank George and Liam Bouquet
At the conclusion of Youngstown State University’s winter break, representatives from both the faculty and the administration were back at the negotiating table, attempting to work out a three-year faculty contract.
Two meetings regarding the faculty contract have already been held this month, with one more planned for Jan. 26.
Both sides acknowledged the need for a speedy resolution to the union negotiations that have persisted for the last 10 months — the longest lasting contract dispute in YSU’s history.
“I really see the necessity of coming to an understanding on a contract that is less concessionary than the tentative agreement,” said Gabriel Palmer-Fernandez, chief negotiator for YSU-OEA and a professor in the philosophy and religious studies department.
Harry Meshel, member of the YSU Board of Trustees, agreed.
“We wanted to get it off the public stage so to speak. We wanted to get it done,” Meshel said in a past interview with The Jambar.
Though faculty and the administration have indicated a desire to expedite the negotiations process, disagreements over the specifics of the contract remain unresolved.
Meshel expressed displeasure with the faculty, which chose to vote down the tentative contract that both union negotiators and administration were able to agree to last semester.
“We were being more than fair [with the tentatively assigned contract],” Meshel said. “I don’t see any benefits to the university beyond what was already agreed to.”
As he did in the past, Palmer-Fernandez argued that the faculty should not continue to suffer for the budgetary mistakes of the administration, pointing to the large concessions — including a reduction in base take-home compensation — made by the faculty when they signed their last contract three years ago. The proposed contract again asks the faculty to make sacrifices; it includes a reduction to summer instruction compensation and a real decrease in salary.
“We did it three years ago; they should have gotten their house in order,” he said. “We are paying for their sins.”
The university is not only in the midst of negotiating with YSU faculty. The staff union — YSU-ACE — is also working without contract.
Last semester, the contract dispute with YSU-ACE led to a fact-finder from the state government filing a fact-finding report. This was essentially a recommendation for a contract by the state, but both the Board of Trustees and YSU-ACE voted to reject the fact-finding report — sending them back to negotiations.
Currently YSU-ACE remains on media blackout, but Connie Frisby, president of the YSU-ACE union, said the union was, “looking forward to getting back to the [negotiations] table.”