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KSU faculty unhappy about negotiations

By Carol Biliczky
Beacon Journal staff writer

The leadership of the Kent State faculty union is unhappy about contract negotiations and might ask members to OK a strike authorization vote.

The KSU chapter of the American Association of University Professors told members this week that the administration wants “severe cutbacks in governance and minimal salary increases.”

If significant progress isn’t made in the next couple of weeks, the AAUP leadership might seek a strike authorization vote, authorize informational picketing or request federal mediation assistance, according to the unsigned email.

KSU spokeswoman Emily Vincent said it was inappropriate to respond to ongoing negotiations. AAUP chief negotiator Eric Mintz, an associate professor of biology, declined comment.

The union and administration have been negotiating since July on a contract to replace the three-year deal that ended in August.

In the letter to 800-some full-time faculty, the AAUP said a limited number of issues remain to be resolved but they are important ones.

Among them, the AAUP says the administration is offering 2 percent raises and the possibility that there will be no retroactive raises if there isn’t a tentative accord by Saturday.

The administration also would increase medical premiums to 17 percent of costs by 2014, parallel with a new negotiated agreement with the KSU chapter of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

Currently, KSU’s 3,400 benefits-eligible employees pay about 14 percent of the university’s cost for health care, Vincent said. Employees in the lower tiers pay a lower percentage and those in the higher tiers pay a higher percentage.

Among other issues, the administration would change the “structure and organization” of college, campus and unit handbooks. That would water down the issues that faculty could grieve, according to the AAUP.

The administration’s positions would amount to a wage cut “at a time when most people could least afford it,” according to an email from George Garrison, a KSU professor of pan-African studies and president of the Pan-African Faculty and Staff Association. His organization is not directly involved in the AAUP negotiations.

In emails sent to faculty and administrators, Garrison appealed for a 5 percent wage hike and no raise in the medical premium.

“This is not too much to request; it is not too much to expect; it is not a large bonus; nor is it unreasonable,” wrote Garrison, who is chairman of the AAUP’s Racial and Ethnic Concerns Committee.

His organization is seeking “proper recognition and valuing of the role of the faculty in the success of this institution,” according to the emails.

Garrison could not be reached for comment.

According to an Ohio State survey of faculty salaries at the 12 tax-supported colleges statewide in 2010-11, the average nine-month salary for a full KSU professor was $106,444, third-highest statewide.

The average salary for KSU associate professors was $77,356 and for assistant professors, $66,540, both fourth-highest statewide.

The AAUP represents full-time tenure or tenure-track faculty on all eight KSU campuses. Tenure confers virtual lifetime employment.

Carol Biliczky can be reached at cbiliczky@thebeaconjournal.com or 330-996-3729.