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PASSHE, APSCUF begin next round of negotiations

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Not quite 18 months since reaching their most recent collective bargaining agreement, representatives from the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education and the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties have started the negotiating process for the next one.

APSCUF represents permanent and temporary faculty at the 14 PASSHE universities, which include Millersville in Lancaster County and Shippensburg in Cumberland County.

The current agreement obtained final approval in March 2013, more than 18 months after the previous agreement had expired and following two years of negotiations and a strike threat. It runs through the end of June 2015.

“Students should have access to relevant programs that meet their needs and that prepare them for the future following graduation,” Thomas S. Giotto, who is leading PASSHE's bargaining team, said in a news release. “The next collective bargaining agreement must support this vision as well as the ongoing financial viability of the universities.”

The news release did not mention state Senate Bill 1275, which was introduced this spring to much comment. It would would allow some of the stronger members of the PASSHE to buy their way out and become state-related institutions like Penn State.

It also says that collective bargaining agreements in place at the time of the system exit would remain in place but that, upon their expiration, the newly state-related universities would negotiate their own contracts with professional and noninstructional employees, instead of being part of PASSHE's process.

The bill remains in the Senate Education Committee, but change of some sort appears likely, as five universities -- Cheyney, East Stroudsburg, Edinboro, Mansfield and Clarion -- have recently given notice of possible retrenchment of positions at the end of the 2014-15 academic year.

PASSHE cast that news as part of a broader systemwide degree program alignment, noting that last year 39 academic programs were placed in moratorium, 30 reorganized and 24 new ones created -- and only 14 of 4,200 regular faculty members were ultimately retrenched. APSCUF, however, said that view is overly simplistic and the issue comes down to a need for more state funding: "We are cutting faculty and programs that CEOs say students need in the workforce.”

PASSHE also recently changed a funding formula that had been in effect since 2003 and approved a third round of flexible tuition and fee proposals.

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