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Contract negotiations between PASSHE, APSCUF resumed Friday

4 January 2013 No Comment

By AMBER SOUTH
@ShipNewsGirl

Contract negotiations between the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education and the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties resumed Friday in Harrisburg.

It was the first negotiation session since Dec. 11; a Dec. 19 session was canceled.

As delegates from the state system and union prepared to meet, PASSHE Vice Chancellor for Human Resources and Labor Relations Gary Dent released a statement updating involved parties on where negotiations stand.

“First and foremost, all of our stakeholders should know that PASSHE is committed to achieving a new collective bargaining agreement with APSCUF that is fair, that is affordable and that positions the System to continue to provide a quality education for years to come,” he wrote.

Protecting the interests of students and their families who provide nearly 75 percent of the revenue needed to operate the state universities is PASSHE’s priority, Dent wrote. PASSHE is pushing for an economic package that allows it to stay competitive in its ability to recruit and retain skilled faculty members, for quality faculty promotes quality education, he said.

The worst economic environment since 1937, with increased health care costs for active and retired employees and rising pension costs, put the state universities under financial pressure, Dent wrote. New approaches are necessary to prevent such costs from overwhelming the system, he said.

“PASSHE’s 14 universities are facing incredible and ever-increasing competition; business as usual is simply unacceptable. Throughout these negotiations with APSCUF, we have been open and transparent about the challenges we collectively face, particularly in an environment of declining state funding support and our families’ limited ability to absorb any tuition increases,” Dent wrote.
(For Dent’s full statement, click here.)

In a statement released after the Dec. 11 negotiation session, APSCUF President Steve Hicks disputed PASSHE’s commitment to reaching a fair contract, saying the state system came unprepared to the last session even though APSCUF presented a proposal that included hundreds of thousands of dollars in concessions five days prior.

APSCUF and PASSHE are in disagreement over issues including pay for temporary faculty, an increase in payments for reduced health care benefits, retirement health care and stopping that benefit for new faculty, and funding changes to distance education.

The start of the new year and resumption of bargaining sessions open up the possibility that APSCUF faculty could strike. Hicks had assured students there would be no strike in the fall 2012 semester, but that is over.

The majority of the approximately 6,000 APSCUF faculty in the state systems 14 schools voted in mid November to permit union representatives to call for a strike should an insurmountable obstacle arise at the negotiations table.

In a previous interview, Brendan Finucane, president of the Shippensburg University APSCUF chapter, said strike authorization is standard in contract negotiations between the state system and faculty union, but a strike has never come out of it.

APSCUF and PASSHE have been in contract negotiations for nearly two years. The contract expired in June 2011.

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Amber South can be reached at asouth@publicopinionnews.com and 262-4771.

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