State university union faculty, coaches have new labor contract

HARRISBURG – Thousands of unionized faculty and hundreds of sports coaches at Pennsylvania’s 14 state-run universities, including Lock Haven University, have a new contract that provides annual salary increases but requires more co-pay for their health-care insurance.

The board of governors of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PSSHE) ratified separate pacts covering teaching faculty and coaches represented by the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties (APSCUF) on Wednesday.

The four-year contracts are retroactive to July 2011 and run through June 30, 2015.

The agreements provide raises totaling 4 percent for the 5,500 faculty members, while the 600 coaches will get raises totaling 4.75 percent plus performance-based merit pools in the last two years of their contract. The separate agreements were previously ratified by the members of the two bargaining units.

The new contracts include salary increases that essentially track those provided to other state employee unions, as well as changes in PASSHE’s health care plan and other workplace revisions that should produce both immediate and long-term savings for the State System, said Kenn Marshall, PSSHE spokesman.

Eligible faculty and coaches will be given a one-time opportunity to participate in a retirement incentive program similar to that offered to all other PASSHE employee groups in 2010. They will have until March 29 to decide whether to take the incentive.

At Lock Haven, there are approximately 261 faculty members and coaches represented by APSCUF.

The LHU APSCUF chapter president, Dr. Stanley Berard, told The Express that, based on comments he has received and from union meetings, local faculty and coaches “are as supportive of their respective agreements as the members at the other 13 campuses.”

Statewide, Dr. Berard said, about 95 percent of faculty and 97 percent of coaches voted “yes” on their respective agreements when voting to ratify.

“The negotiations were long and difficult. Once the PASSHE negotiators began to understand our concerns and became open to altering their own proposals, APSCUF had some productive suggestions to offer for addressing issues that face the system. Hopefully we have laid some groundwork together for less difficult negotiations in the future,” Dr. Berard said.

Meanwhile, the PSSHE board chairman, Guido M. Pichini, reacted favorably to the contracts.

“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,” Pichini said. “Throughout the process, we have been guided by our mission to continue to offer high quality, affordable education to our students. The board appreciates the enormous amount of time and effort everyone involved put into this process.”

The new agreement with the faculty bargaining unit includes general pay increases of 1 percent each in 2012-13 and 2013-14 and 2 percent in 2014-15. Faculty also will receive either annual service increments of 2.5 percent or 5 percent in each of the three years as they move up the salary schedule or annual cash payments equivalent to 2.5 percent of their base salary if they already are at the top of the pay scale. About one-third of faculty receives the increments, according to Marshall.

The new agreement with the coaches’ bargaining unit includes salary increases of 2.5 percent in 2012-13 and 2.25 percent in 2013-14, as well as performance-based merit pools of 3 percent each in 2013-14 and 2014-15. Coaches do not receive annual service increments. Minimum salaries for both head and assistant coaches will be increased effective Jan. 1, 2015.

Faculty will have higher co-payments for prescription drugs as well as for some office and emergency room visits, while coaches will make larger contributions to the cost of their health-care premiums. PASSHE and APSCUF also will begin meeting no later than September to develop an optional defined contribution health-care plan for future retirees.

The agreement with faculty includes $400,000 a year for faculty professional development, including for programs and activities specifically related to innovation in teaching and improvement of student learning outcomes.

“In the rapidly changing world of higher education, innovation is essential. We want to encourage such efforts among all of our faculty,” Pichini said.

The new contract eliminates the payments faculty currently receive for the development and re-development of distance education courses, including those offered online, while ensuring faculty have the technical support they need to make certain the courses are designed and delivered in a way that is most effective and best meets students’ needs, PSSHE said in a prepared statement.

The board also approved a merit pool to cover potential increases for PASSHE’s approximately 1,400 non-represented employees in 2012-13, 2013-14 and 2014-15. Non-represented employees do not receive general pay increases. Any increases they receive are based on an evaluation of their job performance.

The state system is the largest provider of higher education in the Commonwealth, with about 115,000 students. The 14 universities offer degree and certificate programs in more than 120 areas of study. About 500,000 PASSHE alumni live and work in Pennsylvania.

Besides Lock Haven, the state-owned universities are Bloomsburg, California, Cheyney, Clarion, East Stroudsburg, Edinboro, Indiana, Kutztown, Mansfield, Millersville, Shippensburg, Slippery Rock and West Chester Universities of Pennsylvania.

PASSHE also operates branch campuses in Clearfield, Freeport, Oil City and Punxsutawney and several regional centers, including the Dixon University Center in Harrisburg and the Philadelphia Multi University Center in Philadelphia.

(The Associated Press contributed to this story.)