Pennsylvania higher education officials and the union representing state university faculty are reporting progress at the bargaining table.
Members of the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties have been working without a contract for 18 months.
Union leaders met with management for six hours on Friday in their first negotiation since Dec. 11.
Both sides reported movement, but no deal was reached, and additional bargaining sessions were scheduled for Friday and Jan. 16 and 17.
“There was some important progress,” the union said on its website Saturday, but “there are still significant divides,” with health care and compensation for online education remaining key sticking points. The union said that faculty continue strike preparations.
“I think we are, essentially after today, a bit more optimistic that we can reach agreement with the State System,” union spokeswoman Lauren Gutshall told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “As we have been saying all along, faculty members do not want to go on strike. We just want a fair contract.”
The union said the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education took its proposal for a temporary faculty salary freeze off the table. Without providing specifics, State System spokesman Kenn Marshall said the sides made progress on several issues Friday.
Officials at the State System have said they need to control costs during tight economic times.
The union represents more than 6,000 faculty members and coaches who have been working without a contract since June 2011.
Members voted overwhelmingly in November to give their leadership the authority to call a strike. Ten out of 14 union chapter presidents must approve a walkout.
The state campuses are in Indiana, Bloomsburg, California, Cheyney, Clarion, East Stroudsburg, Edinboro, Kutztown, Lock Haven, Mansfield, Millersville, Shippensburg, Slippery Rock and West Chester.
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