HARRISBURG — The State System of Higher Education, which includes Slippery Rock University, and the union that represents its faculty spoke Thursday morning about stalled contract talks between the two.
At the meeting of the state system board of governors, both sides said the other was being unreasonable in its demands.
The Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties’ contract expired June 30, 2011, along with the contracts for the other six unions in the state system. APSCUF is the only union that has not settled with the state system.
The union represents more than 6,000 faculty, including about 475 at SRU.
The state system and the union cannot agree on several issues, primarily health care and pay for distance education.
Guido Pichini, chairman of the board of governors, said that without cost savings being sought in the negotiations, the state system’s ability to offer affordable education is “seriously threatened.”
“We cannot continue to incur the kinds of cost increases we have been experiencing; we must have cost savings,” Pichini said.
Ken Mash, vice president and head negotiator for APSCUF, said the state system is prolonging the 17-month impasse by making unreasonable demands for concessions.
“The fact is that your negotiators have never been fair with us, and no number of op-ed pieces, press releases or public statements emanating from this building will change that fact,” Mash told the board.
Several hundred members of APSCUF, including 23 from SRU, held a demonstration Thursday outdoors on the steps of the Dixon University Center, where the state system is headquartered.
Hundreds of protesting educators waved placards and chanted “Contract Now!”
Dozens of faculty members left the picket line to attend the public comment period at the meeting that was devoted to the contract talks.
The union in September offered binding arbitration to settle the dispute, but the state system rejected that. The union voted Nov. 16 to authorize a strike. Then in December the union said it would not strike before the spring semester.
The union has said that Monday, which is the first day of the spring semester, and Friday, the day of Gov. Tom Corbett’s budget address, are two potential dates for a strike.
The next negotiating session is slated for Friday, four days after the spring semester starts.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.