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Class size control, concessions in pay raise and healthcare part of tentative contract agreement

5 February 2013 No Comment

By AMBER SOUTH
@ShipNewsGirl

Concessions in pay raises and healthcare are offset by more control over class sizes and curriculum issues, according to a faculty union representative familiar with the framework of the tentative agreement announced Monday.

Shippensburg University is one of 14 schools in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education.

The Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education and the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties’ tentative contract agreement, reached Monday, still has to be reviewed by a legislative assembly. Then the faculty at the 14 state universities vote.

The four-year deal mirrors the agreements reached by Gov. Corbett and the other statewide unions, according to an APSCUF statement.

In respective statements, APSCUF and PASSHE said details will not be available until the ratification process proceeds. Brendan Finucane, Shippensburg University chapter president of APSCUF, said Tuesday the contract’s language was currently being worked out in Harrisburg and that faculty had not learned details yet either.

APSCUF did release general information about the major points of the contract.

For one, the contract includes a compensation package similar to the statewide pattern. Faculty negotiators showed restraint by not asking for salary increases greater than what has been given to other state unions, Finucane said.

“That, I think, is reflective of our knowledge of the economic realities facing our nation and the state,” he said.

The tentative agreement calls for no increase in the first year, a 1 percent increase in the second and third years, and a 2 percent increase in the fourth, Finucane said. The increases work out to be less than the inflation rate, meaning that some employees will not meet cost of living increases, he said.

Changes to the healthcare plan are also reflected in the tentative agreement. These include increased copays for office and emergency room visits, and prescription medications, according to APSCUF’s statement.

PASSHE succeeded in ending development compensation for distance education courses that has been in effect since 1999. Despite the cut, the contract provides for technical support and instructional design professionals to help faculty.

The contract, if ratified, will be the first that allows faculty departments to determine class size. APSCUF pushed for more control in this area and in other curriculum issues, Finucane said.
“It’s the people in each of those disciplines who should, based upon the pedagogy in their fields, have a way of determining what’s the appropriate class size,” he added.

News of a tentative contract agreement made for an atmosphere of relief at SU Tuesday, Finucane said. However, faculty are aware that the process is not over.

The APSCUF Legislative Assembly will examine the language of the tentative contract and vote on it this weekend in Gettysburg, Finucane said. Once approved there, it will be up to faculty members at the 14 state schools to vote to ratify the contract.

Only then will APSCUF’s threat to strike be void, Finucane said.

“The sense of it is, especially since the chapter presidents voted unanimously last night to approve the framework, that the vote is likely to end up in ratification,” Finucane said.

Faculty have been working without a current contract since June 2011.
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Amber South can be reached at asouth@publicopinionnews.com and 262-4771.

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