Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) officials and leaders of the union representing faculty are back at the negotiating table today. It is the first meeting since Dec. 11.
PASSHE Vice Chancellor for Human Resources and Labor Relations Gary Dent said, “First and foremost, all of our stakeholders should know that PASSHE is committed to achieving a new collective bargaining agreement with APSCUF (Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties) that is fair, that is affordable and that positions the system to continue to provide a quality education for years to come.”
Bargaining has stalled over several issues including pay for part-time instructors, health care benefits and compensation for online education. Dent is quick to point out that 73-percent of the state system schools' budgets come from student tuition and fees.
Dent said the system wants to arrive at a deal that will allow it to recruit and maintain top teaching talent, but it also needs to keep its costs under control.
“[PASSHE needs] to find solutions to our ever-increasing costs in certain areas, which, if not addressed, will threaten the financial viability of our system,” said Dent. “Increases in healthcare costs for both active and retired employees, combined with rapidly rising pension costs, are placing unsustainable financial pressure on the universities.”
The 5,500 members of APSCUF have been working without a contract for about 18 months. Union members have authorized leadership to call a strike.
The system serves about 115,000 students on 14 campuses across the state including California, Indiana, and Slippery Rock Universities of Pennsylvania.