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Pa. higher ed faculties vote on strike authorization

| Monday, Nov. 12, 2012, 11:58 p.m.

More than 6,000 faculty members and coaches from Pennsylvania's 14 state-owned universities began voting on Monday on whether to authorize a strike.

The balloting continues through Wednesday at the schools in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, including Indiana, Slippery Rock, California and Clarion universities in Western Pennsylvania. If the measure passes, it would authorize the negotiating committee of the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties to call a strike.

Association spokeswoman Lauren Gutshall said the committee is composed of chapter presidents at the 14 schools; 10 of the 14 must approve a walkout.

Gutshall said, however, there are no immediate plans for a walkout.

“While we are taking this step, we're still just trying to negotiate a fair contract,” she said.

Faculty and coaches at the universities, where enrollment totals 118,000 students, have been working without a contract since June 30, 2011. They last met with state system negotiators on Friday. Negotiations are scheduled to resume Dec. 11.

State officials are seeking cost-savings for the system, which suffered a 19 percent budget cut in 2011-12. Any new deal must be “fair to everyone, especially to our students and their families who currently provide nearly two-thirds of the revenue needed to operate the universities,” the system said in a prepared statement.

Although the latest proposal from the system removed a 35 percent pay cut for temporary part-time faculty, union officials said it would place such employees on a lower pay scale, a move union President Steve Hicks said remains unacceptable.

“Creating a two-tier pay system for temporary faculty is to open the door to exploitation and abuse,” Hicks wrote in a letter Monday urging members to approve the strike authorization.

The Associated Press contributed to this story. Debra Erdley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7996 or derdley@tribweb.com.

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