HARRISBURG – A negotiating committee for the union representing faculty at Pennsylvania’s state-owned universities unanimously approved a tentative contract agreement Monday, a key step toward ending a labor dispute that’s lasted more than 18 months.
The Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties said the panel made up of union leaders from the 14 campuses approved the proposal during a statewide teleconference.
The agreement with the State System of Higher Education will be presented Friday to the union’s legislative assembly, which could send it to the rank and file for ratification.
Officials said the four-year deal mirrors the agreements reached by Governor Corbett and the other statewide unions and includes changes to the health care plan, including increased co-pays for office visits, emergency room visits, and prescription medications.
“We are pleased that we were able to reach a tentative agreement that is fair to both faculty and students,” union president Steve Hicks said in a statement. “It has been a long, often difficult, process, but in the end, we were able to reach a settlement that maintains quality public higher education.”
The union representing about 5,500 faculty members said Monday that class size will for the first time be included as an issue subject to curriculum committee recommendations. Officials said that while the pact “eliminates course development compensation for distance education, it provides for technical support and instructional design professionals to assist faculty.”
Faculty members have worked without a contract since June 2011, but an accord was struck early Sunday after two days of talks. Both sides had previously agreed on wage increases similar to those provided in contracts covering tens of thousands of other state employees, but health coverage had been among the stumbling blocks to a settlement.
The State System of Higher Education has schools in Bloomsburg, California, Cheyney, Clarion, East Stroudsburg, Edinboro, Indiana, Kutztown, Lock Haven, Mansfield, Millersville, Shippensburg, Slippery Rock and West Chester. They enroll about 115,000 students.