State System board approves 4-year faculty contract

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The board overseeing Pennsylvania's 14 state-owned universities this morning voted to ratify a new four-year contract with 5,500 faculty, officially ending the longest faculty labor dispute in the system's three-decade history.

The vote by the State System of Higher Education's board of governors took place in a special meeting, which also included a vote by the panel to ratify a contract with coaches across the system.

Members of the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties had been without a contract since July 1, 2011, and with talks foundering last fall, they authorized their negotiators to strike on short notice.

But both sides eventually reached a deal. Faculty earlier this month approved it during three days of paper balloting on each of the 14 campuses.

About 115,000 students attend the State System's 14 universities, which include California, Clarion, Edinboro, Indiana and Slippery Rock in western Pennsylvania.

The contract is similar to those reached by the Commonwealth with other statewide unions.

It includes 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 pact requires modifications to the health plan, including higher co-pays for office visits, emergency room visits and prescription medications.

The contract also eliminates fees for distance course development, which had been sought by management, but continues a $25 per student fee payable to faculty for teaching distance courses.

Under the new contract, the union makes a gain on the issue of class sizes. The pact requires that university presidents explain in writing why a recommended maximum enrollment in a class ought to be exceeded.

"The approval of these two contracts brings to a conclusion a more than two-year process, during which we successfully negotiated new agreements with all of our labor unions," Board Chairman Guido Pichini said in a prepared statement released after the vote.

After the first-year pay freeze, faculty at the top of the pay scale -- $107,870 for full professors at the high end to $66,222 for instructors at the low end -- will 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 salaries.

Base salaries will 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.

The coaches, a separate unit within APSCUF, also approved their contract before today's board vote.

The new pact with them provides salary increases of 2.5 percent in 2012-13 and 2.25 percent in 2013-14, along with performance-based merit pools of 3 percent each in 2013-14 and 2014-15, officials said.

Coaches do not receive annual service increments, system officials said.

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Bill Schackner: bschackner@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1977 and on Twitter: @BschacknerPG.


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