Pennsylvania Universities, Faculty in Final Round of Contract Talks

HARRISBURG Pa.

The administration and union representing faculty at Pennsylvania’s 14 state-owned universities are in the midst of a final round of contract talks, hoping to resolve their differences before the current work rules expire Saturday.

The Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties has threatened to go on strike as early as next week if both sides are unable to reach an agreement at the end of three days of talks that began Thursday. Progress has been slow so far, according to representatives of the union and the State System of Higher Education.

“At this point, I’m feeling a little pessimistic,” union president Pat Heilman said Friday.

At the same time, both sides are “making a very serious attempt to settle this,” state system spokesman Kenn Marshall said.

Among other points of contention, the union has argued that the system’s proposed salary increases are insufficient to retain faculty, noting that more than 1,000 professors have left the system in the last five years.

The union is seeking a 20 percent increase over four years. The system has proposed a one-time, $1,250 cash payment in the first year, followed by across-the-board increases totaling 7 percent over the rest of the contract, along with seniority-based increases for eligible faculty.

The average nine-month salary for full-time faculty was $70,000 in the 2006-07 academic year, and maximum salaries currently range from $60,000 for instructors to roughly $98,000 for full professors, system officials said.

The sides also differ over the use of temporary, nonunion faculty members and distance education incentives.

On the Net:

Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties: http://www.apscuf.org

State System of Higher Education: http://www.passhe.edu


Key issues in the contract dispute between the State System of Higher Education and its professors’ union:

SALARIES: The union argues that professors’ salaries are no longer competitive and has proposed a 20 percent increase over four years. The system’s latest proposal calls for a one-time, $1,250 cash payment in the first year, followed by across-the-board increases totaling 7 percent over the rest of the contract. It would also give seniority-based increases of 2.5 percent or 5 percent each year for eligible faculty.

HEALTH CARE: The system wants to gradually increase the union’s current 10 percent contribution toward health-insurance premiums to 30 percent in the contract’s final year, but it would reduce that payment by half for employees who participate in a wellness program. The union wants to maintain the current contribution rate.

TEMPORARY FACULTY: The union is resisting efforts by the system to loosen constraints in the current contract on the use of temporary faculty.

DISTANCE EDUCATION: The sides disagree over how much professors should be paid for creating and teaching courses available online or through videoconferencing.

–Associated Press



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