State System, APSCUF continue negotiations, make some progress toward agreement
Sept. 30, 2016
HARRISBURG,Pa. - Pennsylvania's State System of Higher Education has advanced negotiations with its faculty union, making some progress toward an agreement. "APSCUF returned to the bargaining table today at our urging, and we are encouraged by the progress we made," said State System spokesman Kenn Marshall. "We are trying to modernize a decades-old faculty union contract to reflect the needs of 21st century students and universities, while maintaining the majority of the language necessary to ensure students continue to receive the highest quality education."
The State System kept on the table more than $159 million in faculty raises in exchange for the union accepting changes to its healthcare plan and other contractual changes needed to help the universities address unprecedented fiscal challenges.
"While the union has not agreed to healthcare plan changes similar to those that virtually every other State System and Commonwealth employee already have, our conversations are continuing," Marshall said. "We continue to explore multiple options for finding ways to generate cost savings that are necessary in order to afford the raises we have offered. We have never worked so hard to try to give someone a pay raise." The raises proposed by the State System for faculty would range from 7.25 percent to 17.25 percent over the next three years. In addition to the annual raises all faculty would receive, those at the top of the salary schedule also would receive cash payments equivalent to 2.5 percent of their salary in both the second and third years of the proposed agreement. Last year, total faculty earnings -- not including benefits -- averaged nearly $100,000 across all four faculty ranks. The average earnings ranged from $63,304 for instructors to $126,209 for full professors.
The healthcare plan changes proposed by the State System are identical to those that were implemented in January for all other System employees covered by the plan, including university health center nurses, campus police and security officers and all nonrepresented employees. Those other employees have been contributing about $7 to $14 more every two-week pay period toward the cost of their health insurance premium since January. Other plan adjustments made at the beginning of this year include new deductible and co-insurance requirements for some medical services and higher prescription drug co-payments.
The plan changes, if also agreed to by APSCUF, would generate about $22 million of the $70 million in cost savings the State System needs. Other contractual changes proposed by the System, including readjusting the workload of temporary faculty, would produce the additional savings.
The State System is facing unprecedented fiscal challenges and needs to reduce costs in order to enable the universities to balance their budget and to help keep tuition affordable to students. The universities have been required to make more than $300 million in budget reductions over the last decade, as state support has lagged and enrollments have declined.
"Even as the System and our universities face enormous fiscal challenges, we are committed to negotiating fair agreements with all of our employees, including faculty," Marshall said. "Our faculty make outstanding contributions to the success of our students and our universities. They deserve to be well compensated, and they are -- ranking among the top 10 to 15 percent in the nation among their peers.
"We will continue to bargain in good faith with APSCUF in order to achieve an agreement that is fair to everyone, most important, our students."
Earlier this month, the two sides conducted five days of marathon bargaining at the request of the State System, after which the union left the table and announced it would go on strike Oct. 19 unless a new contract was achieved. Following those sessions, ASPCUF accepted two of the eight dates the State System proposed for bargaining while the State System accepted three of the five dates proposed by APSCUF.
"We understand there will be calendar conflicts on both sides," Marshall said. "Some days will work for APSCUF and not for us, and vice versa. The point is, we need to be at the table as often as possible. This is too important to our students, our faculty and our universities."
MEDIA CONTACT: Kenn Marshall | 717.720.4045 | firstname.lastname@example.org