State System board chairman says new faculty union contract must have savings

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The chairman of the State System of Higher Education's board of governors said today contract negotiations with the the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties must include cost savings as have every agreement reached with other unions.

In a statement released during the regular quarterly meeting of the State System board of governors in Harrisburg today, chairman Guido M. Pichini said said the system is negotiating for the first time with all of its unions in a single cycle.

He said the other agreements have included savings and "in many cases, concessions."

While he said it has been "extremely difficult," he noted that faculty union is the only union with which an agreement has not been reached.

"The simple fact is without the cost savings we already have achieved through the agreements we have reached to date --- and the additional savings we are seeking through the negotiations with APSCUF --- the ability of our universities to continue to offer quality, affordable education would be --- and is --- seriously threatened," he said in the statement.

He said he wanted to "reinforce the board of governors' commitment to achieving a new collective bargaining agreement with APSCUF that is fair, that is affordable and that positions the State System to continue to provide a quality education to our students for years to come."

Hundreds of faculty members from across the state protested today outside the State System of Higher Education offices while the board of governors heard from both sides at its quarterly meeting.

Ken Mash, vice president and head negotiator for the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties, says the system is prolonging the 17-month impasse by making unreasonable demands for concessions on health coverage and other issues.

The State System is made up of 14 state-owned universities, including California, Clarion, Edinboro, Indiana and Slippery Rock.

Mr. Pichini said the system and the faculty union have agreed on wage and salary increases "for virtually all faculty" this year and each of the next two years, but a small number of "significant" issues remain.

"We cannot continue to incur the kinds of cost increases we have been experiencing; we must have cost savings," he said, noting health care costs.

On health care, he said, "The changes we have proposed not only would help ensure that virtually all PASSHE employees --- including non-represented managers, administrators and executives --- would receive the same level of benefits, but also would result in lower premiums for everyone in the plan."

He said health care and other non-classroom costs are "threatening to strip the universities of their ability to develop and offer the types of new programs students need --- and even to maintain the ones they have now --- and to modernize their academic facilities to ensure students receive the kinds of educational experiences necessary to assure their success."

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Eleanor Chute: echute@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1955.


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