By Oliver Trojak
Faculty union and State System negotiators met again last week for the first time since the union’s announcement of a strike to start Oct. 19.
While some progress toward a new contract was made according to the State System, the union released details of charges filed alleging unfair labor practice by the State System, too.
The Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties’ (APSCUF) members continue to work without a new contract.
After last Thursday’s meeting, Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) stated in their press release it had “advanced negotiations with its faculty union, making some progress toward an agreement.”
But APSCUF President Kenneth M. Mash said, “This is going to be very, very hard, given that most of the most-controversial items are still on the table,” in a union statement on last Thursday’s meeting.
PASSHE Chancellor Frank Brogan held a Facebook Live webcast discussing the negotiations Tuesday morning.
“Whether a strike happens or not is out of my control,” Brogan said.
“We do not want a strike. I don’t as chancellor, the Board of Governors does not, your presidents don’t, your councils of trustees don’t and I will tell you this. The vast majority of your faculty members do not want a strike to become a reality regardless of what it might sound like. They are in this business for you, and we are too,” he continued.
“We have several dates still on the docket for sitting down with faculty before that strike date is imposed. And we want to take those dates and any other dates we can possibly acquire to go to the table, stay at the table, and do what we are supposed to do at the table, not just to avert a strike, but find a successful conclusion to the collective bargaining process we are engaged in today,” said Brogan.
Both sides have reported that the next scheduled negotiation meeting is not until Oct. 14, five days before the Oct. 19 strike date.
Earlier dates were offered, said APSCUF spokeswoman Kathryn Morton, but the “State System rejected those dates.”
“APSCUF faculty members don’t want to strike, but they are preparing to do so if they must — to defend quality public higher education. At the same time, APSCUF leaders have pledged to continue going to the table for the sake of their students and universities,” she continued.
APSCUF also disclosed on its website that they have filed an unfair labor practice charge against PASSHE with the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board.
The disclosure alleges that the bargaining techniques PASSHE has engaged in when “taken as a whole” demonstrate a “desire to avoid agreement, in violation of its duty to bargain in good faith with APSCUF.”
It is unclear what immediate impact this charge will have on negotiations.
“We don’t know when and how the board may meet and decide the issue,” said Morton.
As of Friday, PASSHE spokesman Kenn Marshall reported the State System had not yet received the complaint from the labor board.
“The traditional remedies to a breach of the duty to bargain on good faith is a cease-and-desist order along with a requirement of a posted notice by the employer announcing that it had been found to have violated its legal obligation to negotiate in good faith,” said William A. Herbert, Executive Director of the National Center for the Study of Collective Bargaining in Higher Education and the Professions.
Mash said that should a strike announcement be made, it would come at 5 a.m. on Oct. 19.
The State System and APSCUF provide student center pages with information regarding the contract talks.
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