UC regents back furloughs and pay cuts; staff protest

The Public Press
 — Jul 15 2009 - 9:00pm

 

Staff protest outside regents' meeting at UCSF Mission Bay campus. Photo by Christi Morales/The Public Press
Protesters picketed outside the UCSF campus as the UC Regents met Wednesday. Photo by Christi Morales?The Public Press.

More than 108,000 full-time University of California faculty and staff face extended unpaid furloughs and pay cuts under an emergency plan endorsed Wednesday by a Board of Regents' committee. Senior managers would also see their salaries cut an additional 5 percent.

The plan passed, 11-1. The full board will vote Thursday.

In addition to the estimated one-year, $184.1 million in payroll savings, the proposal calls for more than $300 million in cost cutting at the 10 UC campuses. Chancellors would decide those reductions as part of the effort to compensate for the projected loss of $813 million in state funding.

If approved, the plan would take effect Sept. 1. UC faculty and staff would be required to take from 11 to 26 unpaid days by Sept. 1, 2010, which works out to a pay cut of 4 to 10 percent. Higher earners would take more furlough days and deeper pay cuts.

The exact number of furlough days would be based on a sliding scale across seven pay grades — from under $40,000 to more than $240,000.

UC's senior management would be restricted to no more than 10 furlough days per year, although UC said "their actual pay cuts will be among the highest." Top managers who voluntarily agreed to a 5 percent salary cut in May would lose an additional 5 percent during the next year.

Roughly 27,000 staff and faculty would be exempt from the cuts — most student employees, including graduate students; researchers and staff funded entirely by grants; and employees of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

Faculty, staff and others concerned about proposed cutbacks packed a meeting of the UC Regents Wednesday. Photo by Christi Morales/The Public Press.

UC said it would negotiate the cuts with its unionized employees, who make up 35 to 40 percent of the workforce.

Other measures to close the $813 million gap include $200 million from a previously approved student fee increase and $100 million from additional spending cuts and refinancing of debt.

"There is no doubt that these reductions will be painful for our faculty and staff," said UC President Mark Yudof. "Unfortunately, the university is facing a financial crisis unprecedented in the past quarter century, and everyone is going to be called on to be part of the solution. No plan is perfect, but we have worked hard to make it as fair as possible while preserving, to the extent possible, excellence and access to opportunity for students, researchers and patients."

Anger outside the meeting

Outside the meeting, on the UC San Francisco Mission Bay campus, dozens of union workers expressed anger over a plan they said would cause great hardship.

“We represent the lowest paid in the system. So no matter whatever cut or furlough or whatever they give them, this is a difference between bread or medication for our workers,” said Lakesha Harrison, a licensed vocational nurse at UCLA and president of AFSCME Local 3299, which represents 20,000 hospital workers.

“Yudof’s going to take a 5 percent cut off his million-dollar salary. That’s arrogant and it’s a slap in the face, and they’re asking the worker that makes $30,000 a year to take a 4 percent cut,” she added.

Noting the additional pay cut being proposed, Lynn Tierney, UC associate vice president of communications, accused the unions of spreading "misinformation" to their members.

Joining the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees were members from the Coalition of University Employees and the University Professional and Technical Employees.

Jeffrey Branner has been an AFSCME member and UCSF senior custodial worker for six years. The father of seven said a 4 percent cut is equivalent to losing one day of pay.

“It would devastate us,” said Branner. “It would not only set me back, but it would throw me to the fringe, where I would probably run into problems paying my bills.”

'Union needs to deal with reality'

Tierney said the furlough proposal is the only way to save jobs, adding that while 4 percent for the lowest paid workers hurts, everyone is sharing the pain. She also said that health coverage among other benefits would stay the same for all workers.

“Nobody likes this, but if we want to preserve the quality of the UC and preserve jobs, something has to be done,” she said. “We’re facing a severe crisis. The union needs to deal with reality and deal with the truth.”

But for Jeff Myers, vice president of patient care for AFSCME Local 1399 and UCSF surgical technician, that reality will mean sending less money to his sick mother in South Carolina.

“If my funds are cut, then I have to give her less funds,” said Myers. “In South Carolina, they don’t make hardly any money really. The cost of living is low, so she barely makes enough money to survive.

“A lot of us are hurting throughout the nation,” he continued. “But if you have a university like this one that is very wealthy — has a lot of resources and has good members who want to work and who are the backbone of the university — they should really consider our proposals to try to find other ways before making extreme cuts like this.”