APSCUF, PASSHE to continue negotiations
Published: Friday, February 1, 2013
Updated: Friday, February 1, 2013 10:02
Indiana University of Pennsylvania, as well as all schools in the Pennsylvania School System of Higher Education, successfully began classes for the spring semester amid the threat of a faculty strike.
Negotiations between PASSHE and the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties, the union representing faculty in the 14 PASSHE schools, continue with a session Friday.
Faculty remain unsure of their professional futures, and students still wonder if they will have classes to attend.
Faculty contracts expired in June 2011, after being in place for three years. Negotiations for a new contract began six months prior to that, in December 2010.
APSCUF and PASSHE have been in negotiations for more than two years. When a contract expires without a new contract to take over, faculty continue working under the old contract, according to IUP APSCUF President Mark Staszkiewicz.
No salary increases can be authorized until a new contract is ratified.
“We have one major issue, as far as I can see,” Staszkiewicz said.
“There are other issues out there, but they’re not insurmountable. The biggest issue right now tends to be in the issue of healthcare.”
According to Staszkiewicz, there are three other issues holding up the agreement.
First, the PASSHE Board of Governors insisted that temporary faculty members have a different teaching structure than regular faculty. Temporary faculty would have been expected to teach an extra course with no extra pay. The board then decided to drop the extra course, but pay temporary faculty less, and ultimately backed off of that decision as well.
Second, faculty members had been told that they would be mandated to teach through different modalities, such as online classes. Some faculty members are not comfortable teaching in such ways. The board also dropped that decision.
The final and biggest issue regards healthcare when faculty retires.
According to Staszkiewicz, the board wanted to move from a defined benefit plan to a defined contribution plan.
In a defined benefit plan, the retiree would have healthcare upon retirement until he or she were old enough to be covered by a program such as Medicare. Under the contribution plan, each year a faculty member worked, he or she would be allotted a certain amount of money.
Upon retirement, the individual would be given the money and could purchase a healthcare plan of their choice. Under a defined contribution plan, the retiree risks not having enough funds to cover healthcare when the time comes.
“Their initial proposal was for $1,800 a year,” Staszkiewicz said. “So, if you worked for 10 years, that’s $18,000. Ten years from now, $18,000 is not going to buy a whole lot of healthcare. It buys very little healthcare now.”
APSCUF attempted to go into binding arbitration in November.
In binding arbitration, PASSHE and APSCUF would have chosen representatives with a third individual not chosen by either to form an unbiased panel to look over the issues and create the contract.