Union leaders speak out about concerns following email

Cassie Buchman, Assistant News Editor

Union leaders have already heard concerns from constituents following the announcement Monday regarding hundreds of potential layoffs for non-instructional employees and unpaid furlough days coming in March if the state does not pass a budget.

Besides the layoffs and furloughs, President David Glassman outlined non-instructional equipment purchases, capital projects and supply purchases, the delay of maintenance and repairs unrelated to safety, and a hiring freeze involving funding for fiscal year 2016 in an email Monday.

As of now the state owes Eastern $40 million in appropriations, with another $9 million owed for Monetary Award Program grant reimbursements.

Jonathan Blitz, president of the University Professionals of Illinois, said come hell or high water, the school would be open through the spring semester, but the question is how much pain the university will go through trying to make that happen.

One concern Blitz heard about is from annually contracted faculty members about the hiring freeze.

Since ACF’s are contracted yearly, Blitz was asked if the freeze meant they would not be hired for the following year.

Blitz said he did not have the answer but as of now he does not think he would interpret the news that way.

“Of course, people get scared,” Blitz said. “Everybody’s scared.”

Another concern that came up was the furlough days and who would be subject to them.

Because they are not written in their contracts, the members of the UPI are not subject to furlough days unless the school were to declare financial exigency, meaning the university can not meet certain contractual obligations, in which case furlough days would be negotiated.

Blitz said Eastern is not looking into declaring exigency at this point.

Having a spring semester means most members of the UPI will be safe from layoffs since they will be teaching classes.

However, some Academic Support Professionals, who do not teach, are concerned about being targeted in March, though Blitz said they do not have to worry about that.

In their contract, ASPs are guaranteed three, six or nine months notice depending on how long they worked, so they would not be affected by the potential layoffs in March.

ASPs include academic advisers, stockroom personnel and others.

Blitz said they would remain until the spring semester, but after that, all bets are off.

Derek Light, the president of the Eastern chapter of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, said his membership is always getting worried, especially since they do not know the total number of layoffs that could happen.

AFSCME can negotiate the impact of the layoffs with Eastern’s vice presidents and labor relations people once the numbers are released, but until they come out there is not much they can do save making sure Eastern follows the contracts and civil service rules.

“We’re hoping to find out, hoping for a budget, but we know that’s not going to happen any time soon,” Light said.

Light said back in September, the university had some hiccups where they did not follow all the rules, but they did fix that.

This time, if there are layoffs, Light said he does not think there will be issues, although because of the number of layoffs that could happen, there could be some inherent mistakes.

Light said he has faith Eastern will fix these, though.

Civil service workers will have bumping rights, where they are able to take the job of an employee with less seniority. If an employee does not have enough seniority, they will be laid off.

Light said the fact that everyone he works with is pretty close knit from working together makes news of the potential layoffs harder.

Once people are laid off, it will cause civil service workers, who are already doing more work as a result of past layoffs, to take on additional work.

Light said he hopes the university makes sure, in the event of layoffs, they are trying not to affect the same people they affected during the last round of layoffs.

He said he did not know if they could lose more office staff without hurting students and potentially lowering enrollment.

“They deal with students everyday,” Light said.

Light said civil service workers provide services on campus, such as cleaning the residence halls and offices and cooking meals, and office staff workers help students with their classes.

Another result of the layoffs is that some employees will go without insurance.

Many who would be laid off if there is no budget in March would get unemployment and would have to pay for their own insurance, which could get expensive, Light said.

Some have asked if those in athletics would count as non-instructional staff.

Blitz said in his opinion, most of them were non-instructionals.

He said he did not know what people could do to prepare for potential layoffs besides saving some money and start looking at their options.

“My membership, UPI, shouldn’t be too concerned about their personal situation during the spring semester,” Blitz said. “But what happens at the end of the spring semester is anybody’s guess. None of us have any control.”

While Blitz said there is always a chance Eastern could get funding by March, he was not terribly optimistic.

The UPI will have at a general body meeting Wednesday Feb. 3.

 

Cassie Buchman can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]