Pennsylvania’s state university system faculty union announced last week that on Oct. 19 its professors – including those at ESU – will strike unless a tentative labor agreement is reached.
The Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties (APSCUF), and Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education (PASSHE), the entity responsible for managing educational, fiscal and personnel policies, have been unable to settle a new contract.
Professors are currently working under the terms of the previous contract, which expired in June 2015.
According to both sides, areas of contention include compensation, healthcare, adjustments in workloads, hiring qualifications, use of adjuncts and policy on distance education.
“We need to reach a resolution that preserves the quality of our universities, that supports our students, and is fair to faculty,” said Dr. Kenneth M. Mash, president of APSCUF, who announced the strike date during a live-streamed videoconference from Harrisburg last Friday.
ESU President Marcia Welsh said, “I sincerely regret the distraction the strike authorization vote has brought to our campus. We are doing our very best to ensure we are not sidetracked from our primary mission which is to educate our students.”
“ESU remains fully operational despite the faculty union’s threat of a strike on October 19 as announced in their press conference this morning,” Welsh continued.
“Our administrative team is working diligently with the State System office in Harrisburg on contingency plans, should a strike occur, in order to keep ESU open.”
Through June 2016, APSCUF and PASSHE negotiators had met 14 times by PASSHE’s count. By then, a multi-year proposal was on the table.
This proposal’s goal is “to modernize a number of areas of the long-serving collective bargaining agreement with APSCUF to better reflect the demand of higher education today, addressing areas including temporary faculty, paid sabbatical leave, and online learning, among others. It also seeks to update the faculty healthcare plan to mirror the plan used by other System employee,” according to PASSHE’s press release on the June proposal.
This multi-year proposal was rejected.
Mash stated in a June press release in response to the multiyear proposal, “As the faculty and coaches responsible for providing a quality education, we place students at the center of our decisions.”
“But the changes the State System wants to make to our contract would make it nearly impossible for our members to deliver that quality,” he continued.
After additional meetings held through the summer produced no agreement, faculty unions at all 14 state system campuses brought a strike-authorization vote to all its members in September.
The ensuing September vote authorized APSCUF leadership to call a strike.
Previous strike-authorization votes were held in 1999, 2003, 2007, and 2011, according to PASSHE spokesman Kenn Marshall.
The previous four contract negotiations provided consent to call a strike. However, settlements were reached each time averting the need to strike.
Marshall indicated the length of time for an agreement to be reached after a strike authorization vote “has varied considerably” ranging from approximately three weeks in 1999 to as long as about four months in 2003.
Meanwhile, classes continue to be held as normal at ESU.
Both sides have stated their intent to avoid a strike.
Both sides indicated earlier this week that they will meet today.
On Oct. 4, APSCUF will hold an information session. The time and location have not yet been announced.
The state system and APSCUF provide student center pages with information regarding the contract talks.
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