Thursday, July 12, 2001

UC-faculty talks 'fast-paced'

Cost of pay raises, benefits at issue

By Ben L. Kaufman
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Negotiations began Wednesday on the next three-year faculty contract at the University of Cincinnati.

        “Cordial, fast-paced and informative” was how physiologist John Cuppoletti, chief negotiator for the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), described the initial encounter.

        “It looks like they want to get this thing done.”

        He also said UC negotiators, led by outside attorney Mark Stepaniak, made clear that the university wants faculty to pay higher premiums for health benefits in exchange for higher salaries.

        “I have no idea how we're going to get off this impasse,” Dr. Cuppoletti said.

        A veteran negotiator, Dr. Cuppoletti was upbeat after the 2 1/2-hour meeting, praising UC's willingness to accommodate AAUP on ground rules and meeting times.

        UC also agreed to allow AAUP to correct clear errors if they are overlooked in the final version of the contract.

        Such errors bedeviled some past contracts, forcing AAUP “to eat it for three years,” Dr. Cuppoletti said.

        In addition to abbreviated proposals released Tuesday, AAUP gave UC the full 136-page version.

        UC spokesman Greg Hand said the school would not comment on what transpired at the negotiating table, but he took issue with a key figure that AAUP used Tuesday to explain the potential cost of faculty salary increases.

        AAUP said each 1 percent increase would cost $1.2 million, with UC paying $800,000 and federal and other sources providing $400,000.

        Mr. Hand said that 1 percent is closer to $1.4 million when it includes salary-driven benefits, and it all comes from UC's general fund, regardless of the original source of the income.

        It was not clear whether AAUP's figure included those benefits.

        Today at noon, both sides will reconvene to hear a UC expert on medical benefits and costs. UC, as with many employers, says it is being hit by unexpectedly high increases in health premiums.

        However, AAUP wants higher salaries and some expanded health benefits at UC's expense.

        AAUP represents 1,990 full-time faculty on all five campuses. The current three-year contract expires Aug. 31.


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