University faculty approves new four-year labor contract
March 09, 2013 10:50 AM
by SAM KUSIC

Faculty at Indiana University of Pennsylvania and the state’s 13 other public universities have ratified a new, four-year labor contract.

The deal, retroactive to July 1, 2011, provides for pay raises, but increases out-of-pocket medical expenses, and, for the first time, gives professors some say in setting class sizes.

If the faculty deal is approved by the state system, professors will see their base salaries increase 1 percent in the second and third years and 2 percent in the fourth year. They also will see length-of-service increases of 2.5 percent or 5 percent. Those at the lowest notch of the scale currently earn $44,795; those at the top earn $107,870.

Of the faculty who participated in the ratification vote, more than 95 percent voted in favor, according to the union. The union did not report the total number of ballots cast or the number of affirmative and negative votes.

The State System of Higher Education employs roughly 6,000 professors, and about 5,100 of them belong to the union, the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties.

Union President Steve Hicks said the contract is a fair deal.

“This is a balanced contract that preserves and maintains quality public higher education in (Pennsylvania),” Hicks said in a statement.

“Faculty members at our universities are dedicated to providing students with a high-quality education. The overwhelming support for this agreement illustrates the commitment our faculty have to our students and our institutions,” he said.

The contract will now be forwarded to the state system’s board of governors for approval.

State system spokesman Kenn Marshall said the board has scheduled a special meeting for March 20 to vote on the deal. The board also will be voting on a separate labor deal covering the state system’s athletic coaches during the meeting, he said. The coaches are represented by APSCUF, but are organized under a different collective bargaining unit.

Mark Staszkiewicz, president of IUP’s union chapter, said the salary increases are on par with the raises provided under other state-employee labor contracts.

The deal concludes 26 months of bargaining, which had been hung up on matters beyond salaries and employee health insurance benefits.

Among those issues was compensation for developing and conducting online classes. Though professors will still receive a per-student rate for teaching an online class, they will no longer receive extra for developing one or updating an existing one.

Instead, each of the universities is to designate a person to provide technical consulting for professors who create or revise an online course.

Another sticking point, which still remains, is retiree health insurance benefits. The new contract does not resolve the matter; it only stipulates that both sides will return to the bargaining table at a later date. Staszkiewicz said those discussions are to begin sometime in the fall.

Also to be determined is the contract’s length. Although its agreed-upon duration is four years, there is a proposal to extend it to five, Staszkiewicz said. Action on the proposal is pending.

He said the union is suggesting adding a fifth year in consideration of the state system’s change in leadership. Former Chancellor John Cavanaugh left in February for the top job at the Consortium of Universities of the Washington Metropolitan Area. Given the time it will take to name a successor and for that person to get up to speed, and considering that more than one year already has lapsed on the contract, the union believes it would make sense to have an extra year of labor peace, Staszkiewicz said.

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