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Owens' staff to vote on contract extension

After negotiating for more than a year, union leaders and administrators at Owens Community College agreed yesterday to a proposed contract extension that calls for employee raises through February, 2006.

The extension, pending approval next week by college trustees and union members, buys the two parties time to continue hashing out details for a future labor contract, officials on both sides agreed.

It also means they would avoid a potential strike at the two-year college, which has more than 20,000 students on campuses in Perrysburg Township and Findlay.

"This is a stepping stone for both parties to be able to

move forward and work collectively to be able to address the needs of the institution," said Gary Dettling, vice president of college advancement at Owens.

The proposed extension calls for employee raises of 5 percent retroactive to February, and a one-year 4 percent raise beginning in February, 2005. Those raises are higher than the pay hikes recommended in a November fact-finder's report.

Aside from raises, no other changes are planned to the previous contract, which expired in February, said Angela Ondrus, president of the Owens Faculty Association.

Ms. Ondrus said yesterday that the extension buys them time to work on outstanding issues.

Last month, union members overwhelmingly rejected the fact-finder's report after many of them described it as vague and inconsistent.

Ms. Ondrus said the report triggered fears that instructors could face larger classes and a greater workload, among other concerns.

The fact-finder's report, which was approved by the college's board of trustees, called for first-year raises of 4 percent, retroactive to February, and 3 percent the next two years.

In the previous three-year union contract, the faculty association received raises of 5 percent the first year and 4 percent in the second and third years.

Last month trustees approved raises of up to 3 percent for about 380 nonunion employees and a lump-sum "merit" payment not to exceed 2 percent for employees, including some administrators. Those raises, which are the same as the ones given last year, will be decided on an individual basis.

Ms. Ondrus said union leaders will recommend that the membership approve the contract extension during voting that is scheduled from 2 to 6 p.m. Monday at the Findlay campus and from 9 to 11 a.m. Tuesday at the Perrysburg Township campus.

The college's trustees are expected to vote on the matter at their regularly scheduled meeting at 8 a.m. Tuesday.

Both sides have agreed to continue talking about a future contract, starting the second week of January, if the pact is approved.

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