Negotiators for the State System of Higher Education and its faculty union are scheduled to meet in Harrisburg today, but it may be a short session. The union has dug in and says that unless the State System moves from its positions on the key remaining issues, additional negotiations may be pointless.
Much of the union’s focus has been on wages for temporary faculty, claiming that the State System wants to cut salaries by 35 percent while at the same time increasing the number of temporary faculty by using exceptions to the 25 percent cap currently in place. That would cut the state’s costs by replacing higher-paid tenured or tenure-track professors with lower-paid temporary faculty.
Other key remaining issues to be settled are compensation for developing distance education courses and health care for current and retired faculty. The union is dissatisified with the State System’s lack of a response to their health care counterproposal, which they say would save the state hundreds of thousands of dollars.
State System spokesman Kenn Marshall said earlier this week that more negotiating sessions are scheduled, one this month and more in December, but the union may call an end to the barganing if there is no progress today. Union leaders have already begun the process of authorizing a strike, with the faculty at IUP and the thirteen other state-owned schools scheduled to vote on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday next week.