Panel OKs tentative university union deal
February 6, 2013
HARRISBURG — A negotiating committee for the union representing faculty at Pennsylvania’s state-owned universities on Monday unanimously approved a tentative contract agreement, a key step toward ending a labor dispute that’s lasted more than 18 months. The Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties said the panel of union leaders from the 14 campuses approved the proposal during a statewide teleconference. The agreement with the State System of Higher Education will be presented Friday to the union’s legislative assembly, which could send it to the rank and file for ratification. The agreement covers the 450 faculty members at Slippery Rock University. Officials said the four-year deal mirrors the agreements reached by Gov. Tom Corbett and the other statewide unions. It includes changes to the health care plan, including increased co-pays for office visits, emergency room visits and prescription medications. “We are pleased that we were able to reach a tentative agreement that is fair to both faculty and students,” union President Steve Hicks said in a statement. “It has been a long, often difficult, process, but in the end, we were able to reach a settlement that maintains quality public higher education.” The union representing about 5,500 faculty members said Monday that class size will for the first time be included as an issue subject to curriculum committee recommendations. Patrick Burkhart, president of the APSCUF chapter at SRU, said uncontrolled growth in class size threatens education quality and was the premier concern of the faculty. The impact of falling faculty-student ratios will be examined on each campus, he said. Officials said that while the pact “eliminates course development compensation for distance education, it provides for technical support and instructional design professionals to assist faculty.” Faculty members have worked without a contract since June 2011, but an accord was struck early Sunday. Both sides had previously agreed on wage increases similar to those provided in contracts covering tens of thousands of other state employees, but health coverage had been among the stumbling blocks to a settlement. The state system has 14 universities, including SRU.