Sun. May 26th, 2024

The Association of Pennsylvania State Colleges and University Faculties (APSCUF) has signed a tentative agreement for a new contract to replace the contract that expired on June 30, 2007. This agreement will be voted on by APSCUF representatives on Oct. 14. However, many issues within this agreement are currently being contested within the faculties of the 14 state colleges and universities required to co-sign the agreement, including West Chester University. If the tentative agreement is voted down in October as a result of these issues, “that could put us back at the bargaining table, or it could lead us to a job action,” Jen Bacon, a state representative for APSCUF and professor at WCU said.

This may strike a nerve for some WCU students who were faced with a possible faculty strike during this past summer, after they had already paid for their summer session tuition.

A recent press release from APSCUF stated that “Our mission has always been to maintain quality education at WCU and the other 13 state system universities throughout Pennsylvania.” The president of state APSCUF, Pat Heilman and a representative of the negotiations team, Burrell Brown met with WCU faculty members at Main Hall on Sept. 3 to answer questions about the current tentative agreement. Among the most highly discussed items by faculty at WCU is the rate of salary raises over the next four years and a 25 percent cap on temporary faculty.

“[The agreements surrounding raises are] a mixed bag,” Bacon said. “The lump sum payment in year one means that any raise we get next year is based on last year’s salary, and the raise in year four is deferred until October, so that is not really four percent, it’s more like 3.4 percent.”

This is an improvement over the original proposition by the state system, which, according to Bacon, included “no raises over four years.”

She added that it would actually mean that faculty were taking a pay cut each year, as their salaries lost value against inflation.

The current tentative agreement is an improvement; however, the deferring of the raise in October, among other issues, yield the possibility that were reached verbally that did not translate into writing.

Two issues were cited as being agreed on differently verbally than they were in writing by the September APSCUF newsletter. These were the extension of health benefits and tuition waivers to domestic partners and bringing a group of faculty that received promotions in 2003 to the appropriate pay scale.

“Providing health care and tuition benefits to domestic partners is a huge improvement over the last contract,” Bacon said. However, the contract also requires APSCUF employees to participate in a wellness program in order to help keep health insurance premiums down. ”

“No one knows exactly what that will look like,” Bacon said.

There is also the issue of those who received promotions in 2003. According to the APSCUF newsletter, these staff members, while being raised to the appropriate pay scale that they should have been during the promotion, “will not be properly compensated for work already performed.” This is an example of an issue that may provide debate when voting to ratify the tentative agreement.

The more prominent issue among the Universities is the 25 percent cap on temporary staff. The current tentative agreement states that the McGuire Memorandum, an agreement reached in 1978, will be eliminated.

According to the January/February 2005 APSCUF newsletter, “The McGuire Memorandum was intended to give APSCUF and departments some leverage in persuading management to hire tenure track faculty rather than continue a series of temporary appointments.”

This eases the workload of department chair persons. According to the September APSCUF newsletter, if management decides to split tenure-line positions between temporary faculty members, a department chair” could be responsible for a department of 24 faculty at the same stipend and workload equivalency as a department of 12.”

“The 25 percent cap on temporary faculty is probably the toughest thing in this agreement, again, from my perspective,” Bacon said.

“At a school like West Chester, where we’re already using closer to 30 percent, this will actually be a good thing, forcing the administration to create more tenure track lines, but at most of the other PASSHE schools, this will mean an increase in temporary faculty, and therefore fewer tenure-track lines. It’s also not at all clear how that 25 percent will be distributed.”

According to Bacon, APSCUF is still currently waiting for the language of the tentative contract to be finalized. No one on either side can vote until this happens. The possibility of Job Action will not be cemented one way or the other until a decision is reached in October.

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