Faculty union, administration negotiate options

Cassie Buchman, Associate News Editor

Amidst some concern, faculty members talked about why some are hesitant about taking furlough days.

Furlough days are mandated days where employees would not work or get paid.

Kai Hung, biology professor and media coordinator of the University Professionals of Illinois, said he got a sense of people wondering why the faculty are not taking cuts or furlough days, especially following the announcement that 177 civil service workers were given layoff notices.

These notices will go into effect March 11.

There are three groups of people who work at Eastern: Administrative and Professional employees- such as deans, vice presidents- the faculty, and civil service workers.

Of the three, civil service and faculty members can be part of a union.

Since the A and P employees are not represented by the union, if the administration says they have to take a furlough, or pay cut, they have to take it since they do not have a channel to resist them.

Jon Blitz, president of the UPI, said they were told faculty members taking furlough days would not have made a difference in the number of people laid off this semester.

Paul McCann, interim vice president for business affairs, said that group of people would have been laid off regardless.

“That was the plan that we developed. We needed a certain amount of money and that was part of the plan,” McCann said.

Besides getting an appropriation from the state, McCann said nothing would have affected that plan.

The amount of money saved by furloughs would depend on the amount of days the faculty would take.

McCann said it could save several million dollars that would go into cost-savings, helping them cover cash flow needs of the university such as operational expenses but they were exploring a number of different ways to save money.

“It could go anywhere from a salary reduction to a furlough,” McCann said.

McCann said the salary reductions and furloughs would do basically the same thing.

Blitz said he wanted to look into options that would prevent further job losses without hurting collective bargaining agreements.

Hung said there is no formal channel to furlough, but the UPI and administration are now negotiating options for what else can be done.

“There will be some plans that will be forthcoming,” Hung said. “What it will amount to on the bottom line is we will be giving up some salary in some form. Whether it is called furlough or called something else remains to be seen.”

The administration will come up with a proposal that the UPI members will vote on. If a majority of the members vote to keep it the proposal will be implemented.

Hung said they were happy to entertain other options where the UPI could help the financial situation, but the way furloughs would work is still unclear.

“We can all see the financial situation and we understand, especially during the time when we started knowing that there will be a specific number of civil service workers laid off,” Hung said.

However, Hung said furloughs are not a very good option for faculty members, since they would have to miss work; meaning classes would end up being canceled.

“We can’t legitimately say to our students, Okay, every ninth day, you’re not coming to class,” Hung said. “Imagine, if you are a student, you have a test on Monday and you need help on Friday (but it’s your professors) furlough day. How is that going to affect our students?”

He said classes were not arranged where the professor could just disappear for a day so furloughs would hinder the university’s mission to serve students, which is why some faculty resist the option.

Hung said if the furloughs were the only option the administration came up with, the UPI would consider them and they would vote on them.

“We are going to give up some amount, in some way, to help, it’s just that the details need to be worked out,” Hung said.

Hung said the UPI has given up a pay raise they were going to get in the beginning of fall but said this was not enough to keep the laid off employees.

“(We gave up) that 1 and a half percent, but we didn’t solve the problem,” Hung said.

Hung also mentioned that there had been cuts in faculty, such as 26 annually contracted faculty members who did not receive teaching assignments for the school year.

As the budget situation got worse, the administration started talking to the UPI about what to do.

Blitz said if Eastern wants the union to take cuts, give up money, or more this has to be negotiated.

He said he did not see how furlough days would not affect the institution, especially when faculty would have to take a day off.

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