Thousands of faculty members at Pennsylvania's 14 state-owned universities would receive annual pay raises of between 3.5 and 7 percent over three years under a proposed contract their union overwhelmingly endorsed Friday.
The Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties, which represents 5,500 faculty employees, declined to say how many cast ballots but said more than 95 percent of those who voted supported the pact.
“This is a balanced contract that preserves and maintains quality public higher education in the commonwealth,” said union President Steve Hicks.
The State System of Higher Education board of governors is scheduled to vote March 20 on the faculty contract and a separate pact with about 600 coaches represented by the same union.
The faculty members have worked without a contract since June 2011 as negotiations dragged on. The system demanded steps to rein in costs but the union fought to keep members' health coverage and other benefits unchanged.
The four-year contract is retroactive to July 1, 2011, and calls for no general pay raise in the already completed first year. But assuming the board approves it, faculty members would see an immediate 1 percent increase retroactive to July 1, 2012, another 1 percent raise on July 1, 2013, and a 2 percent increase on July 1, 2014.
Those increases are in addition to the annual “service increment” increases of 5 percent for faculty members with five years' service or less and 2.5 percent for more senior faculty members, according to spokesmen for the union and the system.
Other state employee unions have similar provisions in their contracts, said system spokesman Kenn Marshall.
Karen Ball, the system's vice chancellor for external affairs, said faculty salaries vary widely among the campuses and can depend on the professors' individual credentials. However, she said a mid-level assistant professor makes about $54,500 and a full tenured professor earns $108,000.
The system wrested cost-cutting union concessions on health coverage, including increased copayments for office visits, emergency-room visits and prescription drugs, which would bring faculty benefits in line with coverage for most state employees.
Also, the contract would replace payments to faculty members for designing Internet-based “distance education” courses, agreeing instead to help them by providing technical support and instructional design professionals.
Another provision authorizes an early-retirement program that offers faculty members payments in addition to their pension benefits, based on their age and years of service, Ball said. About 800 faculty members are eligible; they have until March 29 to sign up.
About 115,000 students attend the universities in Bloomsburg, California, Cheyney, Clarion, East Stroudsburg, Edinboro, Indiana, Kutztown, Lock Haven, Mansfield, Millersville, Shippensburg, Slippery Rock and West Chester.