State System faculty starting contract vote

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The 5,500 faculty members at Pennsylvania's 14 state-owned universities are due to vote starting today on a tentative four-year contract with the State System of Higher Education.

The voting by paper ballot will run on each campus through Wednesday. Results will then be transported to the Harrisburg headquarters of the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties to be counted on Friday, said Lauren Gutshall, an APSCUF spokeswoman.

The tentative deal also must be voted on by the State System's board of governors, which is not scheduled to meet until April but could take the matter up earlier.

"They could convene a special meeting to ratify. I don't know that they will, but they could," State System spokesman Kenn Marshall said.

If approved by both parties, the contract, retroactive to July 2011, would end the longest faculty labor dispute in the three-decade history of the State System, which counts approximately 115,000 students on its campuses that include California, Clarion, Edinboro, Indiana and Slippery Rock universities in Western Pennsylvania.

The contract resembles agreements reached by the Corbett administration with other statewide unions. The provisions include a salary freeze in the first year, then increases in base salary of 1 percent, 1 percent and 2 percent over the remaining three years, plus other payments based on seniority

The contract includes changes in the health plan, including higher co-pays for office visits, emergency room visits and prescription medications. The pact also would eliminate fees for distance course development, another management objective, but provides for technical support and instructional design professionals to work with faculty.

The contract also would continue a $25-per-student fee payable to faculty who teach distance courses.

And for the first time, class size would be part of the collective bargaining agreement "as an issue subject to curriculum committee recommendations," officials have said. University presidents would have to explain in writing why a recommended maximum enrollment in a particular course should be exceeded.

After the first-year freeze, faculty at the top of the pay scale -- ranging from $107,870 for full professors to $66,222 for instructors -- would see their base salary increase the remaining three years by a total of 4 percent, plus yearly cash payments equivalent to 2.5 percent of their salary.

Base salaries would go up a total of 4 percent plus annual service increments of 2.5 percent or 5 percent yearly for faculty at all other scales, including the bottom scale that ranges from $44,795 for instructors to $72,967 for full professors, officials have said.

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Bill Schackner: or 412-263-1977.


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