Faculty union agrees to tentative contract, running until 2018

Category:  News
Wednesday, October 26th, 2016 at 9:30 PM
Faculty union agrees to tentative contract, running until 2018 by Macala Leigey

A state-wide faculty union strike came to an end on Oct. 21, when a tentative agreement was reached between the Association of Pennsylvania State College Union Faculties (APSCUF) and the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE).

The three-day strike concluded with the faculty union accepting what they called concessions to salary and the health care proposal originally offered by PASSHE.

“The union agreed to health care plan changes that will produce cost-savings for the system, which were necessary in order to offset some of the cost of providing the faculty raises and to more closely align the plan with those provided to other system employees,” said PASSHE’s Media Manager Kenn Marshall.

Marshall continued: “The temporary faculty proposals [by PASSHE] were withdrawn. Specific details won’t be provided until the agreement is ratified first by the union members, then by the state system’s Board of Governors.”

APSCUF’s President Dr. Kenneth M. Mash also commented on the proposals included in the tentative contract.

“We [APSCUF] accepted concessions to salary and benefits in exchange for eliminating most of the 249 changes the state system proposed in June that would have harmed academic quality. Also for the sake of students, APSCUF agreed to a salary package that was significantly lower than that of the other unions,” Mash said.

He continued: “When it became clear the only way to end the strike was to choose between most of the quality issues and the salary and health care concessions, we chose what would be best for our students. We still made sure our members' salaries weren't completely frozen or cut. We still made sure our adjuncts were not treated worse than our permanent faculty.”

The tentative contract was slated for three-years and will end on June 30, 2018.

“We have had both three- and four-year contracts in the past. Most past contracts have been for three years,” Marshall said.

Being “tentative,” does not imply that faculty members will strike again in the near future.

“In the coming weeks, faculty members will vote on the tentative agreement, making it the official contract. It will not expire until June 30, 2018, so we could not strike before then.

But we hope we never have to go on strike again,” Mash said. Marshall also commented on the “tentative” contract, stating, “It just means that the agreement still needs to be approved first by the full union membership, then by the Board of Governors before being implemented.”

In regards to recovering from the strike, Marshall shared that classes resumed Monday with both students and professors in the classroom.

“We can now return our full focus to what really matters, ensuring students receive the best possible education. With our outstanding faculty back in the classroom, we are confident that will happen,” Marshall said.

However, Mash expressed a number of issues that still need addressed during this recovery period.

“I think it is clear that many of my faculty do not believe that they are treated with respect. We also have concerns about the way our students are treated. We believe everyone needs to be truthful when talking to each other; people with leadership ability know how to pull a campus together,” Mash said.

He continued: “I hope we have learned that we must work together to accomplish great things. For example, we must work to get more funding for our universities so that tuition does not rise, and so we can provide the best possible education. We need to get students on the Board of Governors. There should be three on there right now.”

Mash also commented on the role Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf played in reaching the tentative agreement.

“We weren't in the same room with the state system again after the five-day session we had last week. Out of concern for students, we did all we could to end the strike, and we worked through the governor and his staff to do that,” Mash said.

He continued: “The governor's office played a crucial role mediating between the two sides, and some legislators were also key in moving the process. The governor also pushed for there to be a deal so that students could return to their classes.”

Marshall also commented on Wolf ’s participation during the strike.

“The governor provided important leadership throughout the discussions that ultimately led to the tentative agreement being reached. We are extremely grateful for all of his efforts.”

To prevent another strike from occurring, discussion about smoothing out the negotiation process will be taking place in the near future.

“Students were at the top of our minds during all of this. We are sorry it came to this and that things went down to the wire so many times before. We are fully aware that students are too often getting caught in the middle between faculty and administration during contract negotiations. There's obviously something wrong with the process, and once we have the coaches' contract
done, we are determined to fix this broken procedure,” Mash said.

He continued: “I'm going to propose to the state system that we get together and talk about our process to make sure this doesn't happen again. We might also need to talk to the governor's office about suggestions as well. We didn't want to strike; we wanted a fair contract. And we hope we don't ever have to go on strike again.”

I just want to reiterate how thankful we (faculty) are to our students. They were amazing last week, and we all feel so appreciative. We are most happy to get back to what we love to do, that is, educating our students.” 

Macala Leigey is the news editor for The Spectator. She can be reached at eupnews.spectator@gmail.com.

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