WSU offers faculty union raise in exchange for health care change

Published: Friday, February 01, 2019 @ 1:22 PM

Wright State Strike Begins

Wright State University’s administration has made a contract offer to the school’s faculty union that would extend a deal through 2023.

During a negotiating session Friday afternoon, the administration offered the union a contract that would maintain previous contract language when it comes to layoffs and workload and would limit possible furlough days to one per semester, WSU spokesman Seth Bauguess said. The offer would maintain summer teaching rotations for professors, though they would receive less money for them.

» LOCAL: Faculty strike could impact Wright State’s enrollment, finances

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If the union accepts the offer, it would also guarantee up to a 2.5 percent pay raise for union faculty each year of the final two years of the contract. The offer is contingent on members of the Wright State chapter of the American Association of University Professors joining the school’s uniform health care plan.

Both sides have said that health care remains at the center of the ongoing labor dispute.

Union faculty have been on strike for 11 days. They have been picketing at entrances to campus along Colonel Glenn Highway.

But, AAUP-WSU leaders have long said that agreeing to the administration’s terms for health care would eliminate their right to bargaining for health benefits.

The terms of employment imposed by the Wright State board of trustees on Jan. 4 state that health care can be changed at the university’s discretion. The administration must give 60-days notice to the faculty union before health benefits are altered, according to the terms.

Financial issues have played a big role in contract talks for the last two years. In fiscal year 2018, the university decreased spending by around $53 million in an attempt to begin correcting years of overspending at WSU.

Noeleen McIlvenna, a WSU history professor and contract administration officer, said that union leaders would need to examine all the details of the offer before deciding.

The health insurance payments themselves would amount to “an enormous pay cut,” McIlvenna said, so a pay raise at a later date may only offset part of a reduction in health benefits.

“A raise is not always a raise…This should all be read as part of a complicated package,” McIlvenna said.

» RELATED: State employment board rules Wright State faculty strike can continue

It came to light earlier this week that health care was one of the most contentious remaining issues still on the negotiating table.

President Cheryl Schrader has said the union’s previous health care plan is financially unsustainable and she’s called it a “Cadillac plan.” Having a separate health care plan for unionized faculty has cost the university millions of additional dollars each year, the school said in a press release.

“We refuse to pass that unnecessary cost on to our students,” Schrader said in a prepared statement. “The university is on a path to financial recovery and moving to a single health care plan is critical to realizing our long-term viability.”

If a deal is reached in the coming days, it would still need to be voted on by the university’s board of trustees and the AAUP-WSU’s 560 or so members. No board meetings to discuss collective bargaining had been scheduled as of Friday, according to the school’s website.

Friday’s negotiating session marked the second one this week after a stalemate that lasted for months. Negotiators met for a few hours on Monday and the WSU board of trustees met in private Tuesday.

The two sides “aren’t that far apart” on the issues, said AAUP-WSU president Martin Kich and it’s possible they could meet again over the weekend.

“The meeting today was civil and productive and they did put something on the table,” Kich said. “We’ll continue to sit down until we get a deal.”