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Published: Wednesday, 2/1/2006

UT, MUO unions support merger

BY JIM PROVANCE
BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU
Jacobs Jacobs
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COLUMBUS - The University of Toledo and the Medical University of Ohio have reached agreements with their two largest unions for nonteaching faculty, clearing the way for the unions' support of the proposed merger of the two institutions.

MUO President Lloyd Jacobs, who would become president of the merged institution, told the Ohio House Finance Committee about the agreements yesterday. The committee is considering a bill that would approve the unique merger into what would be the third-largest university in Ohio's budget.

"We assured them we have no intention whatever to engage in union busting as part of this merger ," said Dr. Jacobs. "We continue to recognize them. The combination will recognize them and will continue to bargain with them in good faith. They support this combination."

Ronald D. House, president of Communications Workers of America Local 4319 at UT, and Tom Kosek, president of American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Local 2415 at MUO, attended yesterday's hearing, but did not testify.

The agreement continues the unions' individual contracts with their respective universities for three years, said Tom Kosek, president of the AFSCME local. After that, the two unions would bargain with the merged institution for their next contracts.

CWA represents about 625 administrative, maintenance, and other nonfaculty workers at UT. AFSCME represents about 1,500 MUO teaching personnel, including nurses and clerical workers. Mr. House said the agreements were hammered out in meetings over the weekend and were signed Monday.

Comments from members of the Finance Committee ranged from cautiously optimistic to outright gushing.

"I haven't seen a partnership this good since Mr. Peanut Butter met Mr. Jelly," said Rep. Tom Patton (R., Strongsville), a committee member.

If approved in time, the merger would take effect July 1 but would not be entirely complete until the merged board of trustees has been whittled from 17 member to nine by July 2, 2014.

The bill, sponsored by Reps. Mark Wagoner (R., Ottawa Hills) and Peter Ujvagi (D., Toledo), comes with no money attached. A study into what it would take to merge computer systems, provide severance packages to some employees, and move buildings and programs set the price tag at $20 million, a figure some immediately dismissed as too high.

"The truth is we don't know how much it's going to take, but we know it's going to cost something ," UT President Dan Johnson told the committee. "It boils down to how long this transition is going to take."

He suggested a price tag of $10 million to $15 million.

He said the two universities are already digging into their own budgets to provide preliminary funding. How much the state provides in one-time transition costs would be decided later this year as part of a budget adjustment bill or the state's capital budget for construction and equipment projects.

"We will find resources to make it happen," said Mr. Johnson. "The only challenge is that it will take us longer."

Contact Jim Provance at:

jprovance@theblade.com

or 614-221-0496.



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