What's Really Happening - 2005/08/25



What's Really Happening

Columbus State Education Association Newsletter of August 25, 2005


Several non-CSEA members, as well as a few staff and managers, have asked, "Why won't you accept a 3% raise?" A fair question, especially since staff and managers (except for the CEO) were forced to swallow a 2.5% raise this year. After factoring in inflation and the added burden of hundreds of dollars in additional health care costs, this leaves them making less money today than they made in January.

The answer is relatively simple: CSEA remains willing to discuss different percentages of raises within a salary schedule context.

As it is, before CSEA members considered the report, the Board rejected the fact finder's recommendations of raises of 3.5% a year over the next 3 years. Since fact finding reports must be accepted or rejected in their entirety, the Board also rejected his recommendation that faculty continue to pay the same proportion of their health care as they have in the past.

This latter issue is possibly the most significant. Health benefits are mandatory subjects of bargaining under Ohio law. Yet, while faculty were engaged in bargaining, the Board attempted to unilaterally impose a standardized health care plan that its representatives then refused to negotiate as the law requires. To accept the Board's imposition of health care coverage would allow a dangerous precedent that would undermine our ability to bargain now and in the future. It would ignore CSEA's legal and moral obligations to represent the best interests of faculty.

(As a result of the Board's action, CSEA has filed an Unfair Labor Practice complaint with the State Employment Relations Board. That complaint is pending.)

Late Monday, you received an email from Dr. Moeller with the subject heading "UPDATE." The first line indicated that our CEO was attempting to "clarify confusion" on some matters that have been brought to her attention. This brief issue of What's Really Happening is to clarify some of these misleading "clarifications."

1. Voluntary Early Retirement Plan

The President indicates that the sign-up window for the Early Retirement Incentive Program will close on September 30, 2005, and that this sign-up window "will not be extended." She also states that "eligible faculty cannot act on their intent to participate until a new contract is executed."

The window for signing up for the ERI is scheduled to close on September 30, 2005, and we encourage all employees who pay into STRS (full-time faculty, adjunct faculty, and some administrators) and who are eligible for and interested in retiring by June 30, 2006 to complete the necessary paperwork with Human Resources by September 30, 2005. However, the window for signing up for the ERI is a matter of negotiations, and this window could potentially be extended beyond September 30, 2005 through negotiations.

The CSEA does not currently see the need for extending this date, and in fact there is already an Early Retirement Incentive Program Proposal Side Letter that has been signed by both the President of CSEA and the Vice President of Human Resources indicating that "any faculty member who is qualified and wishing to exercise the right to this incentive buy out must sign up during [the sign-up] period." This sign-up period is stated within the signed agreement to be the 90 days beginning July 1, 2005.

Regarding the President's claim that faculty cannot act on their intent to participate in the ERI until a new contract is executed, faculty can complete the necessary paperwork for participating in the ERI anytime before September 30, 2005 and turn it in to Human Resources. Some faculty (both full-time and adjuncts) already have completed this paperwork. Make no mistake about it: there is nothing to prohibit the college from allowing all faculty (including full-time faculty) to participate in the ERI even without a ratified contract. The Board and Dr. Moeller are holding hostage loyal employees who seek to retire, using them to blackmail the rest of the faculty into accepting heavy increases in health care costs in exchange for the welfare of a few colleagues.

We believe there is another matter that is underlying the Board's position on the ERI-one that is due to this administration's incompetence. When the ERI was presented to the Board of Trustees for approval in March, the administration informed the Board that the college was anticipating 12 administrators, 20 faculty, and 17 staff to participate in the ERI. They further estimated the total cost of the ERI to be between $2.6 and $2.8 million. However, it appears that the administration failed to take into account that the STRS requires that any ERI must be offered to all employees who pay into STRS, including adjunct faculty. Thus, there are scores of additional employees who were not taken into consideration, and to whom the college must offer the ERI. This means that any adjunct faculty member who meets the eligibility requirements (for example, through teaching full time in a local school district during the day) is also eligible to retire "on the college's dime." It seems that it is the Board's intent now to exclude full-time faculty from the ERI, due to its fear about the number of adjuncts who may participate in the ERI that administrators failed to anticipate and inform the Board about.

2. Faculty Negotiations

The email stated that "two primary issues remain unresolved . wages and health care." While the Board may see these as the only primary issues, CSEA believes that other issues remain unresolved. These include the ratio of full-time faculty to students (Columbus State has the worst ratio in the nation-really); overload pay (CSEA is proposing that the overload rate of pay be increased to $42/hour next year and $45/hour the following year); and sick leave (CSEA is proposing an increase in the number of sick leave days purchased at retirement. The current maximum for faculty is 40, and we are proposing an increase to 50 (the College's CEO receives 45), and a number of workload issues.

3. Health Care

While our CEO claims that the Board will support only one health care plan for all employees, the College continues to offer three different health care plans.

CSEA is not opposed to the College offering only one plan for all employees. However, if there were to be only one plan, that plan cannot be a "catastrophic" health care plan (such as what a small, private business would offer to its employees). The Board cannot expect employees to accept 67% increases in their co-pays, a quadrupling of coinsurance out-of-pocket limits, and doubling of prescription drug costs, which is what the College's "core plan" does. The Board and its CEO have attempted to force a small-business catastrophic health care plan on all employees, rather than negotiate seriously a plan that is more typical of what a college with a $120 million budget would have.

4. Wages

The claim that "all data point to the fact that Columbus State pays its faculty competitively in relation to other like institutions" seems to be based on comparing the stated salary ranges at Columbus State to other institutions, rather than to the actual salaries earned at these institutions. For example, stating that Columbus State's salary range for a particular rank is comparable to other college's salary ranges for that same rank has no meaning if faculty at Columbus State cannot even reach the midpoint of this range (due to the lack of a salary schedule). CSEA is not as concerned about what some hypothetical salary range is. We are concerned about faculty being able to progress through those ranges to make the stated ranges a reality. A salary schedule-the standard for teachers nationwide for over 50 years-would allow this to happen.

What's Really Happening is produced by the Communications Committee of the Columbus State Education Association. We welcome your comments, news, and insights.

Steve Abbott, President / x5096
Karl Rieppel, Vice President / x2500
Amy Brubaker, Secretary and Association Representative / x5068
Greg Goodhart, Treasurer / x5431
Darrell Minor, Parliamentarian / x5310
Bill Mundy, Association Representative / x5176
Dr. Jane McDowell, Association Representative / x2656 
Dave Busch, Association Representative / x5079
Dr. Charlie Gallucci, Association Representative / x5499
Leslie Smith, Association Representative / x5302
Dr. Wendy McCullen-Vermillion, Association Representative / x2693
Lisa Schneider, Association Representative / x5124

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