AFSCME to vote on bargaining agreement

Amanda Garrett

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 153 will vote Sept. 14 on a new tentative bargaining agreement reached with Kent State.

All AFSCME members should have copies of the agreement by today or tomorrow, Local 153 President Ray Davis said. A meeting will be held at 6 p.m. on Sept. 14 in the Kiva to debate and vote on the contract.

Although AFSCME did not receive everything they wanted, Davis said he is “optimistic” the contract will pass.

“Our negotiating committee was very focused and driven on getting the best possible contract for employees,” he said. “I think we have a pretty good agreement.”

If AFSCME approves the contract it will be submitted to the Board of Trustees for final ratification, said Dick Gortz, chief negotiator for Kent State.

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

Employees covered by 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. They will also receive a 30-cent wage increase retroactive to Jan. 27. The percentage of the raise is very close to the salary increase received by the faculty, Gortz said. The insurance plan also 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, Davis said.

The parties also reached agreement on two of the most heavily negotiated issues: a fair-share fee and equity.

A fair-share fee will be implemented when the AFSCME membership reaches two-thirds of all employees covered under the contract. AFSCME currently represents 370 workers, about one-third of employees eligible for the union, Davis said.

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.

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 to a higher pay scale. If Kent State can prove the pay for a certain classification of employees is too low to remain competitive, the university will be able to move the group of employees up a pay scale, Gortz said.

If the university makes such a move, AFSCME plans to go into arbitration to move all of the employees on the pay scale up a level, Davis said.

“I represent all the employees covered by the agreement,” he said. “It’s not fair for some employees to be moved up the equity scale and for others to be left behind.”

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

Gortz, who described the negotiations as “workman-like,” praised AFSCME and the university’s team of negotiators.

“Negotiators for both sides came to the negotiating table with a mission,” he said. “I think we came up with a contract that satisfied both parties. The members of the union should be proud of their negotiating team. They did a good job for those employees.”

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