HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Faculty at Pennsylvania’s 14 state-owned universities are on strike for the first time in the system’s 34-year history.
The Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties announced on its website that faculty members went on strike at 5 a.m. Wednesday after a “last attempt to negotiate” late Tuesday.
“We offered a wage package substantially smaller than other state employees, by a factor of $31 million for a bargaining unit of more than 5,000,” APSCUF president Dr. Kenneth Mash said in a statement. “We accepted dramatic reductions in our healthcare coverage and accepted proposals to shift millions of dollars in healthcare costs to our members, but concessions in excess of $50 million was simply not enough for a chancellor who never once appeared at negotiations and whose team walked out of bargaining many hours before the strike deadline. His behavior was irresponsible and dismissive of the needs and interests of more than 100,000 students.”
The union said the strike will end when negotiators reach a contract.
The strike affects about 100,000 students. The state system said those students are required attend classes unless the university indicates otherwise because not all professors will strike.
A spokesman said the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education thought it made significant progress toward settling the strike and thought the union would consider postponing the action. Kenn Marshall said the state system wants to settle the differences but needs cooperation.
A statement on PASSHE’s website says the union rejected an offer to provide raises to all permanent and temporary faculty and an identical healthcare package that other system employees have.
“These are difficult times for our universities,” Marshall said in a statement late Tuesday. “If APSCUF won’t agree to share more of the costs for their own healthcare – like everyone else has – it will threaten our ability to keep tuition affordable for students.”
Gov. Tom Wolf said he’s “extremely disappointed in the failure” of PASSHE and APSCUF to reach a contract agreement on a contract. In a statement, he said the resulting strike is “detrimental to the system and will have far-reaching effects for years to come.”
“The shortsightedness on both sides is counter to my efforts on behalf of the system and hurts the dedicated professors and university staff, and students and their families who are paying tuition to these universities,” Wolf said in the statement.
The faculty contract expired June 30, 2015. Negotiations have been ongoing since late 2014.
The state universities are Bloomsburg, California, Cheyney, Clarion, East Stroudsburg, Edinboro, Indiana, Kutztown, Lock Haven, Mansfield, Millersville, Shippensburg, Slippery Rock, and West Chester Universities of Pennsylvania.