Professors at Pennsylvania’s state-owned universities would each receive an immediate $1,750 cash bonus and annual salary increases totaling 10 percent under a four-year contract agreement released Tuesday.
The agreement between the faculty union and the State System of Higher Education avoids a threatened strike that could have affected 25,000 summer school students at the 14 universities as early as Tuesday. It was reached after a marathon 12-hour bargaining session Monday that capped five days of negotiations.
Gov. Ed Rendell acknowledged some parts of the proposed professors’ contract are more generous than contracts ratified earlier this year by other state employee unions, but said those variations are justifiable.
“I think we’ve fulfilled that in a general sense,” Rendell said during a news conference with union and university leaders. At the same time, he said the union “did a very good job of explaining that there were … certain issues that had to be addressed that were not present or relevant to prior union discussions.”
The previous contract for the 5,500 professors expired at midnight Saturday. The tentative agreement must be ratified by the union and the system’s governing board before it can take effect.
Members of the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties would receive the cash payments in the fiscal year that began Monday, followed by pay increases of 3 percent each in the second and third years and 4 percent in the fourth year, according to the joint statement.
Also, faculty members not at the top of the salary schedule would receive seniority-based increases of 2.5 percent or 5 percent annually until they reach top scale.
The across-the-board salary increases are similar to raises included in contracts for other unions representing tens of thousands of state workers, such as liquor store clerks, food service workers, clerical staff and social workers. However, those workers are receiving a smaller bonus of $1,250 in the first year.
Rendell said the professors’ lump-sum payment is higher because they are paid more than other unionized state workers.
Union president Pat Heilman said she hoped the agreement would help restore the universities’ thinning faculty ranks. More than 1,000 professors have left the system in the last five years, according to the union.
“One of our primary concerns was the recruitment and retention of faculty, and the great losses that we had suffered in the last few years,” Heilman said. “I’m hopeful that this tentative agreement, when ratified, will help us to turn that around.”
The agreement also calls for maintaining employees’ current health benefit contribution rate of 10 percent of premiums until the fourth year, when it would increase to 15 percent. Faculty would be required to participate in a wellness program in the final two years of the contract or pay a premium surcharge.
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.
Heilman said she expected the union to vote on the agreement in late July or early August after both sides work out the final language. If it is approved, the board of governors will meet as soon as possible to vote on it, said Ken Jarin, the board’s chairman.
The state system schools are Bloomsburg, California, Cheyney, Clarion, East Stroudsburg, Edinboro, Indiana, Kutztown, Lock Haven, Mansfield, Millersville, Shippensburg, Slippery Rock and West Chester universities.
On the Net:
Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties: http://www.apscuf.org
State System of Higher Education: http://www.passhe.edu
Martha Raffaele covers education for The Associated Press in Harrisburg.
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