Oberlin College buyouts: 98 take money-saving offer

By Evan Goodenow - egoodenow@civitasmedia.com

Evan Goodenow | Oberlin News-Tribune

Evan Goodenow | Oberlin News-Tribune

An early retirement program will save Oberlin College $2.5 million to $3.5 million annually, according to the school.

College officials said 98 people accepted the buyouts. The college employs about 1,200.

Thirty-two are members of the Oberlin College Office and Professional Employees union, 29 are nonunion staff, 21 are United Auto Workers Local 2192 members, 15 are faculty members, and one is a member of the Office of Safety and Security.

College spokesman Scott Wargo wouldn’t provide a copy of the buyout documents. He said in an email that the Voluntary Separation Incentive Program was designed for employees considering retirement but unsure whether they could afford it. ‘

The buyout plan was introduced in April and those eligible had 45 days to decide.

“The primary purpose of the VSIP is to expedite voluntary attrition with the goal of decreasing long-term operational costs,” Wargo said.

He said 323 employees were eligible for early retirement. Participants had to be at least 52-years-old, have 10 years of experience, and have a combined age and years of employment of at least 75.

Participants will receive one year of their annual salary in 12 monthly payments. Health insurance premium costs are waived for a year after retirement.

Joe Vitale, chief human resources officer, said in a release that most of the early retirements begin in January. Whether individuals will be replaced will be decided on a case-by-basis.

A gag order that would’ve prevented those accepting buyouts from criticizing the college was removed from the program after it was criticized by at least one professor.

Wargo said the removal was to prevent the gag order from distracting from the program’s objectives. Besides cutting costs, he said objectives included recognizing participants long-time service and offering just compensation.

Sandy Kanuch, president of the approximately 190-member professional employees union known as OCOPE, said the union represents a wide variety of positions. They include an animal caretaker for the college’s laboratories, computer technicians, library assistants, a piano tuner in the college’s conservatory, and secretaries. Among those taking buyouts were administrative technicians and secretaries.

Kanuch said choosing whether to accept the buyouts was a very personal decision and she hasn’t gotten feedback from members on their rationale for acceptance.

The possibility the college could create nonunion positions to fill the vacant positions is always a concern, she said. Union leaders will be monitoring how the positions are filled and regularly communicating with the college to prevent that from happening.

Kanuch, a union member since 1986 and president since January, said this was the first time buyouts have been offered since she joined the union. While the college is cutting costs, Kanuch said she doesn’t foresee layoffs.

Evan Goodenow can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @GoodenowNews on Twitter.

Evan Goodenow | Oberlin News-Tribune
http://aimmedianetwork.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/44/2016/07/web1_IMG_0793.jpgEvan Goodenow | Oberlin News-Tribune

By Evan Goodenow