Faculty strike remains in play at state-owned universities after union rejects offer

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Faculty at Pennsylvania’s 14 state-owned universities will strike beginning at 5 a.m. as Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education and the union representing faculty have not reached a contract agreement, according to PASSHE’s website. The two sides do have until 4:59 a.m. to come to terms.

There are over 100,000 students at the universities that will be impacted by the impending walkout.

APSCUF represents over 5,000 faculty and coaches.

Gov. Tom Wolf released the following statement Tuesday afternoon about the contract dispute:

“I have monitored negotiations between PASSHE and APSCUF closely and I have had many conversations with both sides. Throughout all of this I have repeatedly urged both sides to continue talking until an agreement is reached.

“We must ensure our professors are treated fairly while recognizing PASSHE’s difficult financial situation due to years of underfunding.

“There is enough common ground for the two sides to reach a final compromise. Both PASSHE and APSCUF should continue negotiations until a final agreement is reached.

“Avoiding a strike is paramount because a work stoppage will be devastating for the state system. Most seriously, a strike could drive a loss of students, which would further exacerbate an already precarious financial situation for the state system. We have to look no further than what happened to Temple University following the faculty strike in 1990. It took years for Temple to recover its student population.

“We all agree that the higher education of our students is a top priority, and tomorrow students should show up to class and professors should show up to teach them.”

PASSHE’s website was updated Tuesday night with the following statement:

The State System and the faculty union concluded five days of negotiations Tuesday without reaching agreement on a new contract. While the two sides made significant progress in the talks that began Oct. 14, including reaching tentative agreements on more than a dozen issues, including distance education, recruitment and retention of high-quality faculty, and professional responsibilities of faculty outside the classroom, they were not able to reach overall agreement. The union rejected the System’s offer to provide raises to all permanent and temporary faculty and the identical healthcare package that other System employees have. The union previously indicated it would strike on Oct. 19 if an agreement not reached by then. The System remains committed to reaching an agreement that is fair to everyone, especially students.

APSCUF remains adamant the deadline is at 5 a.m. and a decision will be made at 4:59 a.m.

“The governor urged us to keep on negotiating,” APSCUF President Dr. Kenneth M. Mash said in a statement. “He was very clear about that. He personally spoke to both sides and urged us to settle this. I find it shocking that Chancellor Frank Brogan would spit in the governor’s eye like that. Through all of this, the governor has been a strong advocate for the students.”

The state says students should report to classes due to the unknown amount of faculty that could strike. Classes, however, may be canceled.

The union has been without a contract since the last day of June in 2015.

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