The possibility of a statewide teacher’s strike is coming closer after Chancellor John C. Cavanaugh rejected the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties’ (APSCUF) offer of a binding interest arbitration.
APSCUF put forth the offer on Sept. 26 and set Monday, October 15 as the deadline for PASSHE to decide.
“The idea behind a binding arbitration is to say that both sides are not going to come up with a consensus,” said Kevin Mahoney who is the local head of communications chair for the Kutztown Chapter of APSCUF.
“We just have issues that we are not going to see eye to eye on, and we agree that we’ll have an outside party come in and work through the issues and what ever they come up with, we’ll sign,” Mahoney said on Tuesday in an interview in his office.
According to Mahoney, he believes that the Chancellor is playing a game of chicken with the APSCUF and wants to see if the union will actually strike.
Ken Marshall, head of media relations for PASSHE, said that bringing in a third party to decide the teacher’s contract violates Act 188 which says that “The Chancellor shall be responsible for the administration of the system under policies prescribed by the board.”
Although bringing in a third party would violate Act 118, it is only a policy and not a law.
Because Chancellor Cavanaugh refused the binding arbitrator, the delegates of APSCUF will meet this Saturday Oct. 20 to vote on a strike authorization.
The strike authorization will take place in Harrisburg and according to Mahoney the vote could go either way.
“Striking is, of course, the last resort and our negotiator will continue to work with them until he says that there is no way of a deal being reached,” Mahoney said.
According to Marshall during a strike, the 14 PASSHE state schools all have a contingency plan in case of a strike. Sean Dallas, Assistant Director of University Relations, confirmed that there was a plan in place but was unable to comment on what KU would do in the event of a teacher strike.
Mahoney does not believe that any contingency plan the university could come up would allow for KU to “continue with business as usual.”
“Whoever they would bring in, would not be trained in the way we are to teach classes,” Mahoney said.
Mahoney also said that there are other union workers on campus, and he doesn’t believe that they would cross a picket line.
Along with denying the binding arbitrator, PASSHE said that Chancellor Cavanaugh agreed with the terms that were still on the table, which includes, according to the APSCUF blog, “compensation reductions for temporary faculty, the elimination of payments for distance education and significant changes to both active and retiree healthcare.”
Marshall said that in 1999 PASSHE gave teachers an incentive to create online courses.
“They got money on top of what they were already paid,” Marshall said.
Another issue is that the teacher’s believe that PASSHE will be adding a new class of teachers who will teach a 5:5 schedule (five classes each semester), which according to Mahoney will only have the responsibility of teaching.
“Teaching is our primary responsibility,” Mahoney said. “On top of the research and service obligations, which help make some of the classes we design.”
According to Mahoney, PASSHE’s logic is that it will take the load off. However, this new kind of teacher will make it easier for full time teacher’s to teach a 4:4 schedule.
Marshall believes that a settlement is possible in the future because PASSHE was able to end negotiations with five other unions that are apart of the PASSHE system.
However, negotiations have been going down hill since PASSHE rejected the compromise that both PASSHE and APSCUF came to regarding retrenchment.
“Retrenchment is the process to lay people off,” Mahoney said.
The state has to prove that it is necessary to lay the person off and that the person being fired is given a year to find a new job. According to Mahoney there was an agreement and after a few days of not hearing anything, PASSHE came back to the table and rejected the idea.
The unions that got new contracts were the unions for the nurses, police and security, clerical staff, the physicians and the social workers that work on campus. Over the 15 months, the same amount of time the teachers have been without a contract.
By Dan Clark