Slippery Rock University’s faculty union rejected the state system’s Nov. 6 contract proposal over healthcare concessions that were not asked of any other university employee union.
Ben Shaevitz, the president of SRU’s Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties (APSCUF) chapter and a professor of physics at the university, said five other university employee unions received contract extensions from the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) without healthcare concessions.
“It’s unfair that we should have to take on more for healthcare while the other unions don’t,” he said. “I don’t know why the state didn’t ask the other unions for concessions too.”
APSCUF submitted a contract proposal to PASSHE on Oct. 14, which was rejected without explanation on Nov. 6, Shaevitz said. PASSHE issued a counter proposal the same day, which APSCUF immediately rejected.
As a result, SRU’s faculty will continue to work under the terms of the expired contract, Shaevitz explained, but since a new contract was not agreed to, coaches and professors will go without a raise.
“We only asked for a modest pay raise, the same as was in PASSHE’s proposal,” he said.
Annual raises for faculty are determined by a “step system,” in which salaries increase by 2.5 percent each year, which is less than the annual increase in the cost of living, Shaevitz noted.
“All we asked for was one step and the equivalence of a step for those at the top of the ladder,” he said.
APSCUF also asked for a one-time personal development fund of $25,000, which would allow professors to attend conferences with students, bring in guest speakers and conduct student/faculty research, Shaevitz said.
“$25,000 is actually a very small amount of money for the state system,” he said.
Shaevitz said APSCUF intended to provide PASSHE with a reasonable deal in light of the state budget crisis.
“We don’t actually want a one-year contract,” he said. “We proposed the one-year extension because of the budget impass in Harrisburg. Realistically, a one-year contract means we have to get back to the table very quickly.”
A standard three-year contract usually takes between one and two years to negotiate, Shaevitz said, indicating that the current situation is normal.
These contracts act retroactively, however, meaning a three-year contract would “begin” at the time the previous contract expired and would not last three years from the date of the agreement, he explained.
Though he couldn’t rule out the possibility of a strike, Shaevitz said it would be very unlikely for APSCUF to vote in favor of one and that any faculty that would individually walk off the job would be going “AWOL” and would not be supported by the union.
“A strike would only happen if the state broke off talks,” he said. “I don’t think the faculty likes the idea of a strike. We’re committed educators.”
Shaevitz concluded that, even in the event of a strike, university management would have the right to keep classes in session by other means.
“Realistically though, a strike has never happened,” he said.