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Hicks unimpressed, says State System fails to mention key aspects


The three-day voting period for a strike authorization ended yesterday on the fourteen State System of Higher Education campuses, and while the official results have not yet been posted, it seems certain that all fourteen campuses will authorize their union to call a work stoppage.  Ten of the fourteen campuses must vote for a strike in order for the motion to pass.


Yesterday, APSCUF president Steve Hicks issued a blistering response to the State System’s newest proposal, which was unveiled during a negotiating session on Friday.  Hicks took issue with the proposals on wages overall; on wages for temporary faculty, particularly part-timers  who work under twelve hours per semester; on ending payment for distance education, which he says would become mandatory; on health care; and on the $30,000 voluntary early retirement offer, which would  wipe out the 25 percent cap on temporary faculty as replacements.


Hicks also noted the timing of the State System’s news release, which coincided with the strike authorization vote, but he was unfazed, saying the union members know how to read and think critically.    



Our side of the story 

On Friday, PASSHE put out this statement (http://www.passhe.edu/inside/ne/pnp/Pages/Negotiation_Updates.aspx) about negotiations. Then they sent it to EVERYONE on campus Monday morning, which so happens to be the first day APSCUF was holding a strike authorization vote. It is clearly mere coincidence that they chose that timing to put out their first public elucidation of their negotiations offer to APSCUF.

To be fair, it could have been spun a lot more than it is. Yet, there are certain parts they forgot, or didn’t highlight, so we thought it’d be valuable to see OUR side of the story:


Bullet one – Pay: This bullet is essentially accurate, but, true to form, they are proud of “mirroring” other agreements “including AFSCME.” They don’t bother remind you that the AFSCME “mirror” is for raises of 0-1%-1%-2% in the four years. They don’t highlight that it’s THREE step increases for those eligible (and that’s only about 40% of faculty) in FOUR years. All-in-all, the average faculty member’s paycheck will buy less in 2015 than it did in 2011.

Bullet two – Temporary pay: Note that to find the details, you have to follow a link. Their proposal puts part-time temps (anyone under 12 hours per semester) on a different pay scale than someone with 12. It’s not equal work for equal pay. Obviously, that fairness isn’t part of their spiel.

Bullet three – Distance education payments: They are right to say in 1999 these were used to incentivize faculty to teach. But that day has passed. The fact they want to make teaching distance ed mandatory (which they don’t mention) AND cut the payments tells you where they want to go: lots more distance ed at the discretion of management.

Bullet four – Health care plan: As usual, they trot out the Pennsylvania Employees Benefit Trust Fund (PEBTF) as the ideal. It’s a great program, but the one-third of PASSHE employees who are in it only pay one-third the cost that APSCUF members pay for our plan. PASSHE doesn’t mention that their Request for Proposal process has constantly ignored the cost-saving notions of self-insurance and separate prescription and/or therapeutic plans. It’s hard to argue apples to apples when we have an apple and they have a pomegranate.

By the way, notice they don’t bother to mention the major changes in annuitant health care, which make new hires a separate class of faculty and make retiring before being eligible for Medicare much less likely.

Bullet five – VRIP returns!: Yes, you can receive up to a $30,000 “incentive” if you are planning to retire and willing to sign on the dotted line by March 2013. And, yes, (oh! they didn’t mention this) this “benefit” needs to be coupled with a waiver on your replacement being a temporary who counts towards the 25 percent temp cap in Article 11 because, you know, it’s hard to replace permanent faculty quickly enough. Ask yourself about this incentive: how many people who were thinking of retiring in 2014 will retire a year earlier to get the $30,000?

Buried in their last paragraph is the bromide “families currently provide two-thirds of the revenue” – true! But to make it seem like it’s yanked out the pockets of families and into the pockets of faculty is an example of blame shifting. Faculty don’t decide what tuition is; the Board does. And an objective look at our price tag – the lowest four-year tuition in the Commonwealth – tells you that our students get value for their buck. They also deserve a strong voice in Harrisburg against the constant assault of budget cuts that lead to those tuition increases. Don’t they deserve that for their thousands in tuition per year?

We all know both sides will use the information available to their best advantage. We, the faculty of the PASSHE universities, know how to read and think critically and to see their press release for what it is the week of a strike authorization vote.

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Kathleen Smathers

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