Both teams met separately with a state-appointed mediator for close to 20 hours Friday, Saturday and Sunday in an attempt to reach a new faculty collective bargaining agreement which expired June 30.
Negotiations have been ongoing since February with tentative agreement reached on nine sections of the 21-section agreement as well as the appendices concerning Intellectual Property Rights and Course Development.
Armstrong said the University presented a comprehensive written proposal on salary and benefits Sunday (Aug. 13) for the FFA's consideration.
"The University believes that the last economic proposals presented to the FFA bargaining team on Sunday represent significant progress toward addressing the concerns of the faculty and demonstrate the value the University places on the faculty and their work. We believe that the University's offer is a generous one under the circumstances we are facing," commented R. Thomas Cook, secretary of Ferris' Board of Trustees.
Trustee Cook added, "These economic proposals need to be placed in context of what is happening statewide with the funding of higher education. We continue to face declining state support and increases in state-mandated retirement costs, utilities and other costs. It is no surprise that the overall financial environment at Ferris is challenging, and we must find ways to offset these state funding reductions, new state mandates and increased operating expenses."
The University's Aug. 13 proposal to the FFA offers its membership the opportunity to choose each of the next five years between two options. Option 1 offers a choice between two MESSA products, including the current Supercare I plan. Option 2 offers an array of choices including Blue Cross/Blue Shield PPO plans and Priority Health.
"Both options provide excellent health care coverage with the added benefit of immediate relief for out-of-pocket member costs," Armstrong said.
The University's health care proposal includes bringing the University's contribution in Fiscal Year 2007 which began July 1 for all plans up to the level currently paid for non-bargaining unit employees who had given up raises in earlier years for higher health care contributions by the University. This represents a $1,127 increase beyond the capped contribution for this past fiscal year and constitutes nearly a full percentage point increase in the compensation package.
The University also proposed to increase its contribution to health care by 4 percent per year in Fiscal Years 2008 through 2011 in order to help meet anticipated increases to health care coverage.
"The combined effect of these proposals will be to immediately and significantly reduce member out-of-pocket costs in the first year and contain those costs over the life of the five-year agreement," Armstrong said. If the FFA membership elects health care Option 1, faculty members who select MESSA Choices II single or family coverage will realize an immediate reduction in out-of-pocket costs of $2,438 per year (nearly $100 per pay).
If the membership elects Option 2, and a faculty member then chooses the BC/BS PPO 1 plan, the savings will be nearly $2,000 for families, but significantly greater for singles who will save more than $5,000 per year (nearly $200 per pay).
Similarly, for families or singles who elect the Priority Health HMO (also in Option 2), annual savings for out-of-pocket expenses will exceed $4,000 (approximately $160 per pay).
"It is important to point out that the FFA membership has the opportunity to choose between Option 1 (MESSA choices) and Option 2 (BC/BS-Priority Health choices) on an annual basis after the initial selection has been determined for 2006-7. Regardless of the health coverage option elected, each member will have more health care options available to choose from than is the case under the current agreement,"Armstrong said.
Highlights of the University's salary offer include across-the-board competitive increases for each year of the agreement starting with 2 percent this fiscal year and 2.5 percent in each of the remaining four years through Fiscal Year 2011.