Thursday, March 4, 2010

More on Furloughs

at the

University of Minnesota

From the Daily:

The University of Minnesota is considering mandating at least three unpaid days off for all employees over the next fiscal year.

University Chief Financial Officer Richard Pfutzenreuter confirmed that the University is discussing the three furlough days, which would save the school about $12 million.

University President Bob Bruininks is scheduled to bring the plan before the University Senate on Thursday. Professor Marti Hope Gonzales, chairwoman of the Faculty Consultative Committee to the University Senate, said the committee will vote on the proposal at the end of March.

AFSCME Local 3800, the University’s clerical workers union, has vocally opposed any plans for mandated employee furloughs.

“With some of the lowest paid employees at the University as it is, we can’t take a pay cut,” President Phyllis Walker said of the roughly 3,000 employees her union represents.

When Walker heard rumors that the administration was planning to mandate 10 furlough days in January, she and other University staff began protests. She said these protests forced the University to decrease the number to just three, but she still isn’t happy.

For Walker, any mandated furlough is unacceptable.

“I am one of the people that live paycheck to paycheck. I can’t afford a furlough,” said Amy Selvius, a secretary at the Global Studies Institute and a member of AFSCME Local 3800. She questioned the need to mandate furloughs when “over 250 administrators make over $200,000 a year.”

The topic of executive pay will be a main issue Thursday when students, staff and faculty nationwide draw attention to financial problems in higher education.

The protests are organized by a group out of California — a university system that raised tuition in January and will again next fall, amounting to a 32 percent increase.

Groups from 30 different states and Washington, D.C., have committed to participate in what they’re calling a day to “defend education.”

The United Council of University of Wisconsin Students has organized a teach-in at UW to educate students on relevant topics such as state funding for higher education, state-sponsored grants and low tuition. They will also encourage UW students systemwide to contact their legislators to encourage funding for education, said Todd Nordgren, one of the organizers.

At the University, Thursday’s rally will be geared much more toward administrators’ actions on campus.

University students, staff and faculty have planned a rally outside Northrop Auditorium and Morrill Hall at 12 p.m.

Tracy Molm, an organizer for the University event, said those who will attend are protesting what they view as an unfair budget balancing act that puts too much weight on students and low-paid staff.

“People who make over $100,000 a year can afford to take cuts,” she said.

Organizers of Thursday’s rally say the University should find other areas to cut spending.

“There are clerical workers who have to save up to buy their children a pair of socks, and if you take three days’ salary away from them,” Walker said, “that has an incredible impact on their standard of living.”

All this disruption for around ten million dollars? And the University spent how much already on the MoreU Park fiasco - about ten million dollars?

And look very carefully where the money from the furloughs is going to go, folks - into a salary increase pool [sic]! Please start that presidential search soon.

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