More than six months after their old contract expired, the Pennsylvania State System for Higher Education (PASSHE) and the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties (APSCUF) are still without a new pact but the two sides will return to the table Wednesday.
After a long break over the holidays, negotiations resumed last Friday to discuss top issues in efforts to reaching a new collective bargaining agreement.
PASSHE spokesman Kenn Marshall said last week’s talks were centered on two key issues. “One involving compensation for developing courses that are offered distance education, and the other involves healthcare for both current and retired employees,” Marshall said.
The two sides are scheduled to resume talks Wednesday with Thursday also a possibility for further negotiations.
The goal for PASSHE is to align both healthcare plans for current and retired employees with that of the commonwealth’s system. The revisions would ensure the same level of benefits for all state system employees, a concept PASSHE claims APSCUF has rejected.
However, Lauren Gutshall, Director of Communications for APSCUF, said their efforts to reach an agreement on the issue were repeatedly shot down. “In terms of active healthcare, APSCUF has put many proposals on the table. The state system has rejected all of them,” Gutshall said. “We had some cost saving measures included and all of those were rejected by the state system,” she said.
APSCUF recently voted unanimously to authorize a strike if necessary. While such action is not imminent, Gutshall said it has not been ruled out. “We are pleased that progress is being made at the negotiations table and that we’re really hopeful that we can get a fair contract in place. We are still actively preparing for what could be a strike,” Gutshall said.
Marshall said PASSHE is confident the spring semester will start as scheduled on January 28. “Our ultimate goal would be to continue to keep the universities operating to the greatest extent possible, to continue services to students. We’re hopeful that [a faculty strike] won’t happen,” Marshall said.