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STATE EMPLOYEES RATIFY CONTRACT BY WIDE MARGIN RECORD TURNOUT SIGNALS SUPPORT FOR NEW TWO-YEAR PACT

 STATE EMPLOYEES RATIFY CONTRACT BY WIDE MARGIN
 RECORD TURNOUT SIGNALS SUPPORT FOR NEW TWO-YEAR PACT
 COLUMBUS, Ohio, Feb. 2 /PRNewswire/ -- Members of the Ohio Civil Service Employees Association, AFSCME Local 11, have voted overwhelmingly to ratify a new two-year contract covering approximately 35,000 state employees it was announced today.
 In balloting held around the state by more than 150 individual OCSEA Chapters, 13,489 members voted in favor of the contract while 5932 members voted against the proposal. A total of 30,779 OCSEA members were eligible to vote on the contract, while another 4,109 state employees who are covered by the agreement, but pay fair share fees rather than membership dues, were not entitled to vote.
 Union members were being asked to determine whether or not a Fact Finder's recommendation announced Jan. 21, 1992, would be acceptable as a new union contract for 1992 and 1993 Dr. Harry Graham, a professor at Cleveland University, was called in to make fact finding recommendation on the contract when negotiations between OCSEA and the state reached an impasse late last year.
 Under the terms of the new agreement, state employees will receive no general wage increase during 1992, but will remain eligible for step increases and longevity pay adjustments. All employees will receive a 5 per cent increase on July 1, 1993, under the new pact.
 Additionally, the contract will increase the amount of the state's contribution toward the cost of health care benefits from 88 percent to 90 percent effective approximately Jan. 1, 1993, while preserving the level and quality of health care benefits. Union officials indicate that significant improvements were made in the uniformity and level of benefits provided to state employees enrolled in HMO plans, while a shift to a Preferred Provider Option (PPO) for most employees enrolled in the conventional health care insurance plan will generate cost savings for both employees and the state.
 The new contract also includes improvements in vacation leave for career state employees and increased child care benefits for employees. OCSEA officials note that in addition to these modest increases in employees wages and benefits, union negotiators were able to hold the line against efforts by the state negotiators to eliminate many key rights and benefits won in previous rounds of bargaining, such as sick leave accruals, disability insurance rates, promotional opportunities and a ban on random drug testing.
 Union leaders expressed strong gratification at the high voter turnout in this election. Under state law, in order to reject a fact- finder's report more than 60 percent of the eligible union membership would have had to have voted against the package. While voting in the election actually ran better than 2-1 in favor of the new contract, the overall turnout rate of 63 percent is double that in prior OCSEA ratification elections-and sufficient to demonstrate that state employees could easily reject a bad contract, according to union officials.
 Paul Goldberg, OCSEA Executive Director, said that the overall vote showed support for the efforts of the union's 40-member rank and file negotiating team. "Our negotiating priorities were to hold the line on concessions, while improving job security, health care coverages and wages," he said. "The union team was tough enough to hold to those priorities despite a very tough bargaining climate."
 According to Goldberg, the union's strength and internal unity is a an all-time high. 797 former fair share members joined the union during the ratification voting, he noted.
 "By any standard, the number of OCSEA members who voted in this election is extraordinary," Goldberg said. "But this is no accident. OCSEA members have been deeply concerned about their jobs and these negotiations, and we kept our promise to keep them informed and involved at every stop of the process. OCSEA members understand what union pride and solidarity are all about.'
 A high degree of the no votes on the contract came from employees in the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, union officials reported. Corrections Officers in state prisons are among state employees who are prohibited from striking. If such employees reject a contract, however, they have a right to go to binding conciliation, where a neutral arbitrator picks between the final offers of the parties and that result is binding upon both.
 Although employees who couldn't strike actually voted against the contract, the "no" vote was not a strong enough to meet the 60 percent threshold of eligible voters necessary to trigger conciliation. 2305 "no" votes were cast by these employees, while more than 2800 "no" votes were required for rejection under state law.
 While the new contract was ratified, and union officials report overall satisfaction with the results of this round of bargaining, Goldberg also said that state officials should be sensitive to the large "no' vote from prison employees.
 "These employees are already fed up with working in understaffed, dangerous, and overcrowded conditions," he said, "and they are angry at the failure of the administration and legislature to respond to their needs."
 A lot of our members expressed distress over the fact that while they will forego a wage increase this year because of the state budget situation, the Governor and legislators all received a nice 5 percent adjustment," said Goldberg. "Because conditions are so bad, this disparity is particularly galling in Corrections."
 OCSEA's current agreement was scheduled to expire Dec. 31, 1991, but was extended until the new contract ratification process was completed.
 OCSEA is an affiliate of the 1.2-million member American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which represents more than 100,000 public employees throughout Ohio. OCSEA is the largest state employee union, representing 34,888 employees in profession, clerical, technical, service and blue collar positions.
 -0- 02/02/92 R
 /CONTACT: Peter Wray of OCSEA, 614-487-9191/ CO: Ohio Civil Service Employees Association ST: Ohio SU: IN:


JP -- NYSU004 -- 5965 02/03/92 07:53 EST
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