The Hocking College Education Association Support Staff has withdrawn its strike notice in an ongoing labor dispute with the school over a new contract.
Union spokesperson Will Alder said Tuesday that after issuing the 10-day strike notice on Friday, March 16, the union voted this past Sunday, on the last day possible, to allow the strike notice to expire in hopes of returning to the negotiating table.
"We were supposed to strike at midnight Sunday night and on Monday morning," he said. "After much discussion, the members voted not to strike at this time. We also voted (last Wednesday) to not accept the college's 'last, best,' and they say, 'final' offer."
At this point, the support staff does not agree with the offer but is also not going to strike at this time, he said.
The sticking points, he said, are how the college proposed to handle reductions in force, and language that allows the college to outsource 10 bargaining unit positions over the life of the agreement.
"We don't like the way that language is written as far as not allowing people who are laid off to bump outside of their department," he said. "So a senior person could be laid off and have no other place to go and just have to take the lay-off. Whereas a more junior member – somebody with as little as three months experience – would get to keep their job."
Alder said that if those two issues can be settled an agreement can be reached.
"Our position is that we would be willing to go back to the negotiation table any time," he said. "I don't think the college feels that any more negotiation is going to get us anywhere."
In an email statement on Tuesday, Hocking College spokesperson Laura Alloway confirmed that the parties have reached an impasse.
"At the request of the mediator, the college and the union met Saturday for the purpose of determining if continued bargaining would be productive to resolve the few remaining unresolved issues," she wrote. "The parties concluded that they simply are deadlocked on several outstanding issues, and continued bargaining will not result in agreement on those issues."
Alloway said that the College is pleased the HCEA-SS elected not to engage in a work stoppage.
"We continue to value these employees and believe that our final contract offer fairly balances respect for our employees with the responsible use of the college's management rights and limited resources," she wrote. "The college is currently in the process of evaluating all of our options and will announce a decision when one is made."
As for what those options may include, Alder said the College might just implement its final offer.
"By not agreeing to it, we reserve the right to strike at another time," he said. "Of course, we'd have to put in another 10-day notice. And there are other (things) like the informational picketing that we've done in the past that would still be an option for us."
If the contract is implemented, another option is to file a complaint with the state's employee relations board.
"I think there's some unfair labor practice (complaints) we could file, and basically we could protest the implementation of that contract," he said. "We could do that and strike or just do that. I think our members are still hopeful that maybe an agreement can be reached."
Alder said that at this point the parties are not scheduled to resume any kind of negotiation.
"I've heard from our negotiating team that they think that implementation is just a matter of time," he said. "I have no indication when that's supposed to happen."
If that occurs, or when it occurs, the support staff will be obliged to work under the conditions of that proposal.
"We are not going to call it a contract because we are not accepting it, and we do not intend to sign it as an agreement," he said. "But if the college enforces those rules, we would be working under those rules."
HCEA-SSP has been in contract negotiations with the college since April 2011 and has been working without a contract since July 1, 2011.
The union local represents 87 bargaining unit employees at Hocking College. This includes employees in food service, maintenance, clerical, technicians and custodians.
The union has rented a "crisis headquarters" at 104 E. Canal St. in Nelsonville. If they decide to strike in the future, Alder said, that will be the headquarters.