Faculty and the administration in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education traded proposals for a new contract Friday and agreed to meet again later this month.
Neither side made specific salary proposals. The administration also did not propose a length of contract; the union wants a four-year deal and "reasonable general pay increases," its president said.
The parties are scheduled to bargain again on June 24.
Kenn Marshall, a spokesman for the system, said the union's proposal would hurt the system's 14 universities, which already face declining enrollment and financial struggles. The union has asked for free fitness memberships for faculty and their spouses, and wants their dependents to receive waivers of various university fees, Marshall said. They already receive tuition waivers.
"We're facing very serious financial troubles, and they're looking to add more costs," he said.
The union blasted aspects of the administration's proposal, which officials say would lead to fewer full-time tenured faculty and more adjunct professors, and shift nearly $9 million in health-care costs to faculty.
"This is an attempt to not just exploit our faculty members, but really change the nature of higher education in Pennsylvania," said Ken Mash, a political science professor at East Stroudsburg University and president of the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculty, which represents more than 6,000 faculty and coaches.
The sides have been negotiating for 18 months; the previous pact expired last June. The union has said it will take a strike authorization vote in August or September if progress is not made and set a strike date shortly thereafter.
Marshall said the system wants changes in contract language dealing with temporary faculty, paid sabbatical leave, and online learning and changes in health care before talking about raises.
The system's health-care proposal would require faculty to contribute about $3 to $14 more every two-week pay period, depending on coverage level. Employees also could face new deductibles and higher prescription costs. Mash has said the proposal would cost members several hundred to several thousand dollars a year depending on health needs.
The system also wants to require full-time temporary faculty to teach an additional course each semester, for a total of five, but faculty would not have to do research or perform other service, Marshall said. Still, that would be tantamount to a pay cut, Mash said.
The starting salary for a full-time instructor is $46,609, with the top of the scale at $112,238 for an experienced full professor.
The 107,000-student system includes Bloomsburg, California, Cheyney, Clarion, East Stroudsburg, Edinboro, Indiana, Kutztown, Lock Haven, Mansfield, Millersville, Shippensburg, Slippery Rock, and West Chester Universities.