State System of Higher Education Details Latest Contract Offer to Faculty Union
HARRISBURG, Pa. – Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education Friday detailed its latest offer for a new collective bargaining agreement with the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties, the union that represents faculty at the 14 state-owned universities. The two sides exchanged proposals yesterday.
The Board of Governors worked for more than a year with leadership from the universities, including the councils of trustees, and the Office of the Chancellor to identify necessary changes to the faculty contract. These changes are intended to enable the universities to better serve the changing needs of students while responding to their own fiscal challenges.
The system’s proposal seeks to modernize a number of areas of the long-serving collective bargaining agreement with APSCUF to better reflect the demands 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 in place for other system employees.
The proposal does not include any salary provisions, which are typically addressed later in the negotiations process.
“Students always are our top priority,” said system spokesman Kenn Marshall. “The faculty are critically important to their success and to the success of our universities. We are committed to bargaining in good faith with the faculty union to reach an agreement that is fair to everyone.”
The state system has been negotiating with APSCUF for more than 18 months. Previously, the two sides were unsuccessful in their efforts to agree to a one-year extension of the most recent contract, which expired June 30, 2015. The state system and APSCUF now are working toward a long-term agreement.
The state system’s proposal recognizes the vitally important—and different—roles played by both regular and temporary faculty. All faculty within the System are paid based on the same salary schedule.
Regular faculty—those with tenure and those who are on track toward tenure—are required to teach the equivalent of four classes each semester. In addition, they are expected to conduct research and to provide service by participating on committees; developing new courses; and taking part in various other university, college, departmental and community activities. They are evaluated on all three aspects of the position: teaching, research and service. That wouldn’t change under the system’s proposal.
Full-time, temporary faculty also are responsible for teaching the equivalent of four courses each semester. The state system is proposing they teach one additional course per semester. They would not be required to conduct research or to provide additional service to the university, and would be evaluated only on their teaching. The change could provide students greater access to the courses they need to graduate on time.
“We have many extremely talented men and women who serve as temporary faculty,” Marshall said. “They bring their significant expertise to our universities, greatly enhancing the educational experience for our students. By allowing them to focus solely on teaching, it will produce cost savings to the universities or provide additional opportunities to our regular faculty to expand their research and service activities.”
Temporary faculty who teach at least four courses per semester would continue to be eligible to receive the same package of healthcare coverage as regular faculty, a benefit rarely provided to temporary faculty at other colleges and universities.
On healthcare, the state system has again proposed faculty receive the same healthcare package as other employees who are covered by the system-administered healthcare plan, and share the same costs.
The state system late last year announced changes to the healthcare plan it administers on behalf of about two-thirds of its employees. The changes were applied in January to state system managers and administrators, university health center nurses and campus police officers and security guards. The changes were intended to reduce the overall cost of the plan for the system in order to help keep the universities affordable to students and their families, while continuing to provide employees access to essentially the same healthcare services they have now.
The changes require employees to contribute from about $3 to $14 more every two-week pay period toward the cost of their health insurance premium, depending on their level of coverage. Other plan adjustments, including new deductible and co-insurance requirements for some medical services and higher prescription drug co-payments, will affect employees based on how much they use the plan.
The state system worked with its healthcare provider to come up with plan changes that would lower the cost of coverage while continuing to provide a level of benefits to employees that remains extremely competitive in the higher education market, all without having any effect on the student learning experience or reducing other important services.
“The changes were designed to produce cost savings for our universities while minimizing the financial impact on employees,” Marshall said. “Furthermore, these changes better reflect the realities of high-quality, modern healthcare plans and more closely align the system’s healthcare plan with those offered by other colleges and universities in Pennsylvania and across the nation.”
The system also is proposing to no longer provide retiree healthcare coverage to future faculty members. The change would apply only to faculty hired after the new contract is approved; current faculty would continue to be eligible for retiree healthcare coverage upon their retirement. The proposed change would mirror that already applied to managers and administrators as well as members of three other State System unions.
Also included in the state system’s proposal to APSCUF are provisions that would better facilitate the process for transferring faculty from one department to another, when appropriate to meet changing student needs; and continue the modernization of distance education practices to meet student demand for access to additional high-quality online learning options.
The two sides are scheduled to return to the bargaining table June 24. Additional sessions also are scheduled throughout the summer.
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