Harrisburg – The Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), which represents approximately 4,000 employees at the 14 state-owned universities and in the Office of the Chancellor, have reached final agreement on several addendums to the Commonwealth’s new four-year contract.
The Commonwealth concluded negotiations with AFSCME on wage, salary and benefit issues earlier this year, and the AFSCME membership approved those terms. PASSHE participated in those negotiations, as well as in separate discussions on a variety of issues specific to the State System. Those discussions included meeting with the 14 university chapter presidents to review the separate issues.
The main agreement between the Commonwealth and AFSCME includes significant savings in healthcare costs. It is anticipated those savings will nearly offset wage and salary increases scheduled for the second, third and fourth years of the contract, which will run through June 30, 2015.
“This agreement will essentially pay for itself because of expected healthcare savings in excess of $25 million over the next four years,” said PASSHE Vice Chancellor for Human Resources and Labor Relations Gary K. Dent. “It is an agreement that will benefit our universities, our students and our employees as we all struggle through extremely challenging fiscal times.”
The final terms of the PASSHE/AFSCME addendums call for the parties to work together to help enhance workforce efficiency and to preserve jobs. A new position classification system will be developed, in part to allow greater utilization of employee skills, while a joint labor management committee will help design a process where AFSCME staff may be shared among universities. The sides also agreed on how to manage grant-funded positions and on a plan to convert some 12-month positions to nine months, while continuing the employees’ year-round benefits.
“As both sides looked at the challenges facing the university system, its students and employees, we focused on common goals to insure the success of the students by finding ways to strengthen our workforce,” said AFSCME Council 13 Assistant to the Executive Director Darrin Spann. “In the end, I believe we accomplished these goals with our willingness to work together and become partners.”
“It is a credit to the negotiating teams on both sides that they were able to develop an agreement that addresses a number of key issues while helping to ensure the viability of our campuses,” Dent added.” It will result in a much greater level of collaboration, and is a model we are exploring with our other employee groups.”
AFSCME is one of seven labor unions with which PASSHE has been negotiating. Talks with the others are continuing.
The Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education is the largest provider of higher education in the Commonwealth, with nearly 120,000 students. The 14 PASSHE universities offer degree and certificate programs in more than 120 areas of study. About 500,000 PASSHE alumni live and work in Pennsylvania.
The state-owned universities are Bloomsburg, California, Cheyney, Clarion, East Stroudsburg, Edinboro, Indiana, Kutztown, Lock Haven, Mansfield, Millersville, Shippensburg, Slippery Rock and West Chester Universities of Pennsylvania. PASSHE also operates branch campuses in Clearfield, Freeport, Oil City and Punxsutawney and several regional centers, including the Dixon University Center in Harrisburg.