The threat of a strike disrupting classes at Pennsylvania state colleges is no longer imminent as faculty and the state have reached a preliminary handshake agreement with the finer details to be hammered out soon.
On Monday, the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties (APSCUF) announced on its website that its members had reached a unanimous decision to approve a tentative agreement with the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE). The two-year long contract dispute that affected the future of 5,500 faculty members at 14 state owned universities was finally resolved in what was the 46th round of negotiations. According to a press release from APSCUF President Steve Hicks,
The four-year deal mirrors the agreements reached by Governor Corbett and the other statewide unions. In addition to a compensation package that is similar to the statewide pattern, the tentative agreement contains changes to the health care plan, including increased co-pays for office visits, emergency room visits, and prescription medications. The specific details of the agreement will be released after the ratification process is complete.
It was a long weekend for both parties as conference calls began on Friday and continued through Saturday. Talks finally ended between midnight and 2AM on Sunday. IUP APSCUF President Mark Staszkiewicz told IUP student newspaper The Penn,
“At this point, the language on both sides is that they have agreed on a framework for the contract,” he said. “That framework has a couple of things, the meat to put on the bone, so to speak, but in principle, both sides are in agreement.”
More steps must be taken for the deal to be finalized. This weekend the APSCUF legislative assembly, made up of 175 delegated members representing all of the PASSHE campuses, will vote on the deal. If approved the contract will be sent to APSCUF members for review. The PASSHE will have to go through a similar process.
Faculty members had been working without a contract since June of 2011. The new deal is likely to be for three years. After the negotiations committee meeting on Monday, APSCUF President Hicks said,
“By reaching a fair agreement, faculty can now focus on what they love to do: teach. Students can continue the semester without the looming threat of a strike,” Hicks said. “I am grateful to both our negotiations team and our negotiations committee, who worked tirelessly over the weekend to resolve the key outstanding issues with the State System.”
The contract will calm the fears of college seniors who were afraid their final semester could be interrupted by a strike. Bloomsburg University senior Gina Tyson told BUNow,
“I was incredibly worried that if the teachers went on strike, that I wouldn’t be able to receive my degree on time,” she said. “Once I heard that the strike was unlikely, it felt like a weight was lifted off my shoulders.”