Students across the state system of higher education were happy to hear that a tentative contract agreement was reached between PASSHE and APSCUF earlier this week, meaning their studies will not be interrupted by a strike this semester.
The fear of a possible strike was something that was haunting the back of many students’ minds as they began their spring semesters, particularly soon-to-be graduating seniors.
But now that a framework has been set, it is time to sit back and analyze whether the nearly two-year long negotiations were really worth all the commotion.
Not all of the details are fully known about the deal at this time, and nothing will become official until the ratification process continues, but, according to APSCUF’s official blog, it is a four-year deal that mirrors Governor Tom Corbett’s deals with other statewide unions.
Two years for a contract that mirrors Corbett’s other statewide union deals? Interesting.
Simply put, under the tentative agreement, faculty will see very slight increases in pay over four years, will have to pay a little more in medical co-pays, and will lose compensation for distant learning courses, though they will now have technical assistance for online courses provided by the Universities.
All in all, it does not seem to have been worth a two year dispute to reach such a compromise, but that is sitting from a standpoint outside the negotiating table.
While we understand that negotiations take time to reach a compromise that works best for both parties, the ongoing debate that we have been covering over the past two years seems to have resulted in a fairly mundane compromise. Faculty will get a very slight pay raise, classroom sizes will be evaluated and monitored, and technical assistance will be given to faculty designing online courses. We have a hard time believing the latter two of those points were not already a part of previous collective bargaining agreements, let alone issues that warranted a longtime battle.
Even the health care reform, which was one of the key disputes during the process, seems somewhat underwhelming and not warranting a lengthy process.
We are not saying faculty and the state system didn’t have the right to try and get the most out of their contract negotiations as possible. It’s their livelihood, so obviously they do. But was all the talk about strikes for two years over a two percent pay increase over four years and a slightly different health care plan?
One thing is for certain — a strike would have been ridiculous over this, but that luckily now stands as a bargaining threat and nothing else.
Now that this contract mess is cleared up for the next couple years, we can all join together and turn our attention onto more pressing matters, like Governor Corbett’s funding for higher education.