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Published: Tuesday, 11/8/2005

Study urges UT domestic partner plan

BY KIM BATES
BLADE STAFF WRITER

A fact finder hired to probe health contract issues at the University of Toledo has recommended that administrators approve domestic partner benefits for union employees coverage many on campus have been pushing for in recent years.

The fact finder, Donald Jaffe of Cleveland, said UT should adopt domestic partner coverage consistent with guidelines outlined at Ohio State University, one of five public universities in the state with the benefits in place.

His report, which contains key findings on separate union-administration sticking points, such as proposed changes to prescription drug costs and other language about spousal coverage, was handed down Monday nearly a year after UT trustees said they believed they could not legally provide domestic partner benefits because of the passage of the state s marriage amendment.

Approved last November, it declared marriage as only between a man and a woman.

Mr. Jaffe noted that if a court would determine the university could not legally provide the benefits, then they could be revoked at UT.

Proponents of the domestic benefits measure it s been supported by the president s diversity commission and faculty senate, among others commended the fact finder s decision relating to domestic partner benefits.

I think it s a positive step, said Diane Britton, a history professor at UT and member of the American Association of University Professors, one of the three bargaining units that have been working together for a new health care package at UT. I think it s a positive step for my employer and our city, community.

UT Trustees Chairman Dan Brennan said yesterday that he s seeking feedback on the financial ramifications of the fact finder s report, largely as it pertains to matters of prescription drugs and current spousal coverage.

Administrators had proposed increases in out-of-pocket costs for speciality drugs by creating a new four-tier system. They also were seeking a requirement that spouses of employees, with certain exceptions, enroll in their own workplace health programs.

Such changes were expected to save the university an estimated $1.8 million, Mr. Brennan said.

But the fact finder ruled against changing the current language in either area. As a result, Mr. Brennan said he s looking first at the financial ramifications of approving the fact finder s report before he even considers the domestic partner issue. I want to know what we can afford, he said.

The trustees will meet at 11 a.m. tomorrow to vote on the fact finder s report. The report must either be accepted or rejected as a whole, with at least 60 percent of the membership of each bargaining unit or the trustees voting to reject the report in order for it to fail.

The presidents of the AAUP and the University of Toledo Police Patrolman s Association could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Ron Honse, president of the merged Communication Workers of America, Local 4319, said he believed the pact was fair and addressed concerns on both sides.

Union members also will vote through tomorrow on the fact finder s report.

Contact Kim Bates at:kimbates@theblade.com or 419-724-6074.



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