Members approve KSU bargaining agreement

Amanda Garrett

Members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 153 voted overwhelmingly to approve the union’s collective bargaining agreement with Kent State.

In a voting session held Thursday night, only 11 of AFSCME’s approximately 140 voting members gave the agreement a thumbs down, AFSCME President Ray Davis said. The union currently represents about 370 maintenance, custodial and food-service workers at Kent State.

The final step in the process will be ratification by the Board of Trustees.

The university is pleased with the bargaining agreement, said Carolyn Pizzuto, vice president of Human Resources.

“We are delighted this contract passed,” she said.

“We thought it was a good and fair process for the employees,” Pizzuto said.

AFSCME is pleased with the contract, although the union did not receive everything it wanted, Davis said.

“Some things in the contract were great, and other things were not so great,” he said. “I think our members will be pleased with their sick leave options, the new overtime rules and the increased wages.”

One of items AFSCME wanted but didn’t get was a fair-share fee.

The fair-share fee will require non-union members to pay the equivalent of dues for the benefits they receive from collective bargaining, Davis said.

Under the new contract, AFSCME will get a fair-share fee when its membership reaches two-thirds of all employees covered under the contract.

Another contentious issue was equity, which is a 10-level pay scale. Under the new contract, the university will have to conduct a study in order to move certain groups of employees up the pay scale. If the university can prove the pay for certain classifications of employees is too low to remain competitive, the university will be able to move the group of employees up a pay scale.

If the university makes such a move, AFSCME plans to go to arbitration to move all employees up the pay scale, Davis said in an earlier interview.

The new agreement, which was announced Sept. 2, will cover a three-year period from Oct. 1 2005, through Sept. 30, 2008.

Employees covered under the contract will receive a 25-cent raise for the first year of the contract, 45 cents for the second year and 50 cents for the third year. Employees also will receive a 30-cent wage increase retroactive to Jan 27. The insurance plan is very similar to the one faculty received.

Other issues covered under the contract include a more equitable distribution of overtime, increased vacation time and holiday pay for seasonal workers.

Negotiations to replace the old contract, which expired Jan. 27, have been going on since November 2004.

“Our negotiating committee was very focused and driven on getting the best possible contract for the employees,” he said.

Now that the negotiations are over, AFSCME will concentrate on increasing its membership and holding officer elections Oct. 18, Davis said. The union also plans to post bulletin boards around campus to make both members and non-members aware of the union.

Kent State plans to build on the relationship it established with AFSCME during collective bargaining, Pizzuto said.

“We will continue to work together,” she said. “They will advise us on issues that concern them, and we will advise them on issues that concern us. It’s an ongoing processA- – an ongoing dialogue.”

Contact academic affairs reporter Amanda Garrett at [email protected].