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Pennsylvania Higher Ed System Seeks Mediator in Strike Talks

HARRISBURG, Pa. ― The Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education has asked the state’s labor board to appoint a fact finder to help in negotiations with a union representing faculty at 14 state universities, but the union contends the move is a delaying tactic.

“We think it’s important to do everything we can to move these talks forward,” said Kenn Marshall, spokesman for the state system. “We want an independent third party to look at the proposals and make recommendations.”

The fact finder’s decision would be nonbinding, but Marshall said it could be used to help form a settlement with an unbiased look.

The labor board could consider the request at its Friday meeting.

However, Kenneth Mash, the union’s president, said Tuesday that the move is just a stalling technique since faculty would be barred from striking until the fact finder’s report was issued. That could take up to 40 days, delaying the strike to final-exam time and causing anxiety for students.

He said the union is proposing binding arbitration if the school system is interested in hearing from an outside party.

“That would be a swift conclusion,” Mash said.

Marshall dismissed the notion that asking for a fact finding was a stalling technique.

“It’s the exact opposite of a stalling tactic. It’s a tool to help achieve settlement,” he said.

Both sides were returning to the bargaining table Tuesday.

The union represents about 5,500 faculty and coaches at Bloomsburg, California, Cheyney, Clarion, East Stroudsburg, Edinboro, Indiana, Kutztown, Lock Haven, Mansfield, Millersville, Shippensburg, Slippery Rock and West Chester universities. Members have been working under contracts that expired June 30, 2015.

The union has authorized its representatives to call a strike if needed.

Mash said the two sides have made headway on smaller issues, but the bigger issues like workload, professional development and salaries remain sticking points.

He said the union will hold a strike workshop on Saturday and Sunday for faculty members.

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