Regents approve pay cuts, furloughs

Depending on job type, University employees will be required to take pay cuts or furloughs during the 2011 fiscal year.

by Cali Owings

A budget resolution that will make cuts to University employee compensation was passed by the University of Minnesota Board of Regents in a 10-1 vote Friday. The Faculty Senate approved the plan in March. The regentsâÄô action was the final vote necessary to incorporate the plan into the 2011 budget. The plan, developed by the University to comply with the new policy of financial stringency, includes three mandatory furloughs for civil service employees and salary reductions for faculty, staff and administrators. Regent Steven Hunter did not support the budget resolution. He said the University could have avoided mandatory furloughs by requesting employees to volunteer unpaid time off work. The mandatory furlough days will take place during winter break. Administrators emphasized an opportunity to also save on energy costs during that time. Civil service employees will receive a 2 percent salary increase in July, about six months prior to the furlough. Administrators said this should ease the blow of three days without pay. Faculty and professional and administrative staff salaries will be temporarily reduced by 1.15 percent. Senior administrators will face double the salary reduction at 2.3 percent. âÄúThis is the time when we need the entire University community helping,âÄù President Bruininks said. An average 2 percent pay raise based on merit will go into effect next January for faculty and staff. University Vice President for Human Resources Carol Carrier said administrators worked with different employee groups in the development of the plan to ensure the sacrifice was shared by all. The Crookston and Duluth campuses have also approved the compensation cuts. Hunter said he was âÄúdisturbedâÄù that a voluntary furlough approach was not tried. He said in his experience as a city employee in the 1980s, voluntary leaves of absence helped save jobs. He said he wished the University would have surveyed its employees to gauge whether they would volunteer unpaid time off before mandating the cuts. But Bruininks said the administration decided a voluntary furlough program would rely too much on the hope that the savings would be enough. The severity of the budget problem required a guarantee. âÄúFor every $1 million, you have to lay off about 40 employees of the University of Minnesota,âÄù he said. Phyllis Walker, president of the University clerical workersâÄô union, said clerical workers are being asked to sacrifice too much. âÄúThere are workers at the University who make $14 or $15 an hour,âÄù Walker said. âÄúTheir children will go to school hungry.âÄù She added that if the furloughs were strictly voluntary, people who could afford larger cuts could protect those who can’t. Others see the plan as a temporary solution to the recent cuts in state funding of the University. Regent Richard Beeson said he thinks it will be a reasonable plan for this year but called for more strategic cuts in the future. The cuts were chosen as a way to remedy a $132.3 million budget problem for the next fiscal year, resulting from cost increases and cuts from the state. Bruininks told the board the challenge will be met mostly with cuts, but also increases to tuition. On top of pay reductions, each University unit has been told to cut 2.75 percent of its costs for next year. For students, tuition will increase 7.5 percent. In-state students will face a smaller increase, around 4.4 percent, due to the availability of federal stimulus dollars.