More than two years of labor negotiations between the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education and its professors formally concluded Wednesday, with the system’s governing body voting to sign off on a new four-year contract.
The state system’s board of governors ratified the contract during a special meeting Wednesday morning in Harrisburg. It provides for labor peace until at least June 30, 2015 — there is a pending proposal to extend the contract by one year.
The state system’s 14 universities include Indiana University of Pennsylvania.
The board of governors also ratified a labor contract covering the state system’s athletic coaches. Professors and coaches are represented by separate bargaining units of the Association of State College and University Faculties.
“Throughout the process, we have been guided by our mission to continue to offer high quality, affordable education to our students. The board appreciates the enormous amount of time and effort everyone involved put into this process,” said Guido M. Pichini, chairman of the board of governors, in a statement issued following the meeting.
Under the contract, professors will be receiving a base-pay increase of 1 percent this year and again in 2013-14 as well as a 2 percent increase in 2014-15. Also, they’ll receive time-of-service increases of 2.5 percent or 5 percent in each of the years as they move up the salary steps.
There are roughly 6,000 professors. Those at the lowest notch of the scale currently earn $44,795; those at the top earn $107,870.
As for coaches, they’re in line to receive 2.5 percent raises this year and 2.25 percent in 2013-14. They’ll also see the pool of dollars awarded on a merit basis increase 3 percent in 2013-14 and again in 2014-15.
Although both sides have now ratified the labor contract with professors, more work remains.
The system and professors are to return to the bargaining table no later than Sept. 15 to begin trying to work out the terms of an optional defined-contribution plan providing for retiree health insurance benefits.
And if Mark Staszkiewicz, president of IUP’s union chapter, had to hazard a guess, it will take some doing to get a deal together.
He said there are many questions that will factor into the discussions, such as how national health care reform might affect proposals and what is the true size of the state system’s retiree health insurance liability.
The state system has said the liability stands at $1.4 billion. The union, however, maintains that the figure isn’t entirely accurate because it represents the cost if everyone would retire tomorrow.
But not everyone is going to retire tomorrow, Staszkiewicz said.
Some, however, will be leaving soon, considering an early retirement program being offered under the contract. At IUP, administrators said there are between 128 and 132 professors who are eligible.
Staszkiewicz said positions vacated by professors who take advantage of the program will be filled, although the positions may be moved among departments, he said.
Some juggling could occur as IUP shifts resources to drive new revenue, which is needed to cover a projected $6 million deficit.
The university will know soon how many intend to leave — professors are required to commit to the program by the end of the month and must retire by May 31, he said.