Universities, faculty make progress on contract
Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education officials and faculty union representatives returned to the table Friday for a marathon bargaining session in hopes of avoiding a strike.
The state system oversees 14 state-owned universities, including Edinboro, California and Slippery Rock universities.
Michael Bucell, psychology professor and vice president of the Edinboro chapter of the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties, said representatives in Harrisburg seemed to think negotiations were productive after the six-hour meeting.
“We're told they made some progress, which is very different from what happened to this point,” Bucell said.
“We made progress on several issues and agreed to additional sessions on Jan. 16 and 17,” State system spokesman Kenn Marshall said Friday evening. “We also will meet next Friday as scheduled.”
Students are set to return to classes the 14 universities in the state system on Jan. 28.
Friday's negotiations session was the first since Dec. 11. The two sides had planned to meet on Dec. 19 but agreed to cancel that session.
Union officials said it wasn't worth sitting down at the time because the state system hadn't prepared a counter offer to the union's most recent proposal.
The two sides have seemingly reached an accord on the basic structure of pay for most of the union's 6,000 members.
Under the existing proposals, union members would have a pay freeze for the first year of the four-year deal, 1 percent increases in the second and third years and a 2 percent increase in the fourth. The deal would be retroactive to June 2011, when the previous contract expired.
The remaining sticking points between the two sides are based on health-care and retirement contributions, pay for temporary faculty and whether to keep incentive payments for online classes.
The cost of the existing health-care and retirement benefits for faculty was a point of contention as the two sides went into negotiations Friday. Gary Dent, vice chancellor for human resources and labor relations for the state system, said health-care and pension costs “are placing unsustainable financial pressure on the universities.”
“We have no alternative,” Dent said. “We must agree to new approaches before these costs overwhelm the system.”
But Union officials responded on their website, www.apscuf.com, by saying Dent has distorted how much the state system pays for health benefits and overlooked the fact that union members “already pay the highest percentage of premium of any union in the Commonwealth.”
Bucell said health benefits are the biggest issue remaining.
“Our negotiator is telling us that the hardest work is still left to do,” Bucell said.
Amid growing frustration with how long it is taking to reach a new deal, faculty at the 14 universities voted in November to authorize a strike.
Union leaders now have the power to call a faculty strike at any point, but promised in late November to wait until the spring semester.
In an letter to students and parents, Edinboro University President Julie Wollman has pledged to keep the school open even during a strike. Wollman noted that the university has a “contingency plan in place” to keep offering classes during a strike, without going into detail.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Evaporating cap on Pa. gasoline taxes to offset drops at pump
- Suspect in trooper’s slaying Frein had ‘defeated’ look when found, U.S. marshal says
- Pa. trooper ambush suspect Frein in court after long manhunt
- Newsmaker: Thomas M. Thompson
- Unmanned balloon used in hunt for alleged Pennsylvania trooper shooter
- Bill makes state rebate for property taxes or rent more available to seniors
- Scam nets thousands from Mercer County woman, police say
- Union: No transit strike imminent in Philadelphia
- Balloon doesn’t locate Frein
- Police: Man wanted in fatal ambush of Pennsylvania trooper finally captured