By Emily Leayman
The bargaining between the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) and the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties (APSCUF) has made progress.
After failing to come to an agreement during a negotiation session on Jan. 16, PASSHE concluded that it would have a new proposal for the next session.
On Jan. 24, APSCUF members held a rally outside the PASSHE Board of Governors meeting in Harrisburg’s Dixon University Center. Hundreds gathered from PASSHE schools around the state, the APSCUF website reports. The rally focused on issues of continuing disagreement such as health care for current and retired staff, academic curriculum, class size and distance education.
The two groups finally converged after a long session beginning on Feb. 1. The meeting went into the morning of Feb. 3, when PASSHE and APSCUF reached an agreement for framework of a new contract.
The Negotiations Committee of APSCUF voted Feb. 4 to accept the proposal. 10 of 14 chapter presidents needed to vote in favor of keeping the new contract, according to Dr. Kevin Mahoney, the Director of Public Relations for the KU chapter of APSCUF.
Dr. Paul Quinn, president of the KU chapter of APSCUF, held an information session for faculty members of the union on Feb. 5 at 3 p.m. in the Academic Forum.
Quinn started the session apologizing for potentially rushed settlement.
“It was a surprise that the settlement happened,” Quinn said.
He went on to explain the tentative contract negotiated between PASSHE and APSCUF. He then highlighted the main changes in the contract.
One section determined that grant-funded employees would receive raises only if the permanent, full-time employees did as well.
Health care, a big negotiations point, was also discussed. Copay would change, as well as extending benefits. There is no change in retiree health care. A new plan for retirees may be negotiated in the future.
A pay increase would occur for faculty. Quinn said it is better, but “the state will downplay it.”
PASSHE contributions to several funds would occur as well. Starting July 1, PASSHE would contribute 5 percent more to the Health & Welfare Fund for the faculty. They would also add a one-time contribution of $250,000 to the fund within 90 days of the contract being approved. In the next two academic years as well, PASSHE would give $300,000 per year to the Professional Development Fund and $50,000 per year for programs and activities to improving teaching and student learning.
Class size was another important point. For the first time, class size would be added to the contract. The university’s curriculum committee can recommend a change. While the president, as the top authority, can refuse, he must provide a written excuse for doing so.
Quinn said the contract was not perfect but better.
“All of the chapter presidents are happy,” Quinn said.
Next, the Legislative Assembly will vote on allowing all of the faculty to vote for the tentative contract. After an estimated two to three weeks, the APSCUF members would have a three-day voting period. If the contract is rejected, more negotiations would occur.
The PASSHE chancellor, however, will not be around to see APSCUF approve the new contract. Chancellor John C. Cavanaugh will leave his position in the end of February. He has taken a position in Washington D.C. to be the leader of the Consortium of Universities of the Washington Metropolitan Area.
The contract would apply to around 5,500 staff of the 14 PASSHE universities.
The university has a strike contingency plan ready if needed.