Union board recommends against agreement

Bethany Jones

The Executive Board of the American Association of University Professors-Kent State chapter has recommended that a tentative agreement on a new contract be rejected.

The proposed agreement was reached last Wednesday by negotiators from the AAUP and the university after 13 months of talks. At a Friday meeting, the executive board recommended members reject the agreement, saying health care provisions in the proposed new contract are too costly.

Ballots of the tentative agreement will be mailed this week to members of the AAUP, the union that represents faculty members. The members will vote and return their ballots by July 6.

AAUP members will meet at 3 p.m. Friday in the Governance Chambers of the Student Center to hear more details about the proposed contract.

The tentative agreement is for a three-year contract that would give faculty a 2 percent pay increase retroactive to Sept. 16, 2004. Faculty would get a 3 percent increase for each of the next two years.

The proposed health care plan would require all faculty to pay a monthly premium. About 54 percent of the faculty now have a plan with no premium.

AAUP President Cheryl Casper said the university is trying to shift a much larger health care cost onto faculty. The fairly modest salary increase would be counteracted by the fairly high health care cost increase, she said.

“It would considerably cut into the new salary agreement,” she said. In a press release, she said it could equal 2 to 3 percent of some faculty salaries.

A faculty member can now choose a family plan with no premium. In the new proposed contract agreement, all faculty members would have to pay a premium based on their salary. For a profession earning between $63,500 and $78,500, for example, the lowest contribution would be an estimated $1,091 a year. Benefits also would be substantially lower under that plan. Hospitalization and outpatient treatment, now reimbursed at 90 percent, would be reimbursed at 70 percent.

If faculty members wanted 90 percent reimbursements, they would have to pay an estimated $1,680 annual premium under the proposed new plan. If total health care costs increase more than 10 percent a year for the university, faculty would have to pay half of any increase above 10 percent. The health care plan calls this a “cost pass through” provision.

“That means the sky is the limit,” Casper said.

If passed, the proposed health care plan would go into effect Jan. 1, 2006. Current benefits would be maintained until then.

David Creamer, vice president for administration, said the proposed health care plan would be a step in the right direction but it would not solve the health insurance problem.

“Our costs are still going to go up,” Creamer said, “It’s that they will go up slower.”

The tentative agreement needs a majority vote by AAUP members to pass. If they pass it, the University Board of Trustees then votes on it.

Casper said ballots are being mailed to about 500 members. The tentative deadline for ballots to be returned is noon on July 6. Ballots should be counted within hours of their return, she said.

“I’m not sure what will happen at this point,” Casper said.

She declined to comment on the possibility of a strike.

Contact academic affairs reporter Bethany Jones at [email protected].