EIU-UPI to vote on salary reduction, potential repayment

Cassie Buchman, Associate News Editor

The Eastern chapter of the University Professionals of Illinois will vote on a proposal this week given to them by the administration asking that their salary be reduced by 5.6 percent of their annual base contract salary.

President David Glassman, in a rationale, wrote that the university is still about $2 million short of making payroll through the end of the current fiscal year without further action.

He said UPI representatives argued against furloughs and suggested salary deferral instead.

“As a compromise I have accepted a program of salary reduction and repayment when certain financial conditions are met,” the rationale read. “In so doing and in keeping with the principle of equity and fairness, the additional furlough days assigned to other employee groups will be converted to salary reduction and conditional repayment too.”

UPI President Jon Blitz said this salary reduction would generate the $2 million if the UPI, faculty and academic support professionals agree to it.

Blitz said he hopes if the proposal passes, nobody else gets laid off but if it does not pass he does not know what will happen.

Paul McCann, interim vice president for business affairs, and Jeff Cross, associate vice president for academic affairs, declined to comment.

The amount that will be deducted from the faculty’s salary will be deducted on a monthly basis beginning on March 31, with a second one on April 30, and ending on either May 31 or June 30.

With this proposal, the UPI would be able to get the money back after Aug. 1, 2016, if the university receives the first $5 million FY16 appropriation from the state.

If there is a FY16 appropriation, if Eastern gets $5 million, people with salaries of $50,000 or less will get their deferred pay back.

When the university gets the second $5 million from the appropriation, people with salaries higher than $50,000 get half their deferral back.

If Eastern gets more than $27 million back, 9.2 percent of the amount above $27 millions will be repaid to those with salaries above $50,000. They will be able to receive up to 100 percent of the amount contributed to the salary reduction.

UPI Vice President Grant Sterling said if there is no FY16 appropriation given to Eastern, the money is then gone.

“You can’t take 5.6 percent each month, because most of the year’s already done,” Sterling said. “So, essentially you have to triple that.”

Sterling said he only had three paychecks left, so to get to 5.6 percent of his yearly salary, three times that amount would have to be taken out of his salary each month.

He said it ends up being a 17-percent deduction this way.

Blitz said this reduction could make it harder to make ends meet for some faculty members.

“When you start out, you don’t make that much,” Blitz said. “And you have a family. I’ve been there. Some people are struggling to get by.”

Blitz said some might not be able to afford taking this pay reduction, and would have them or their spouse take a second job and tighten their belts.

He said they might not be able to spend as much money in the community, which would have a real impact.

“Every business in Charleston and Mattoon is going to take a hit,” Blitz said.

Faculty members who have accepted and approved a retirement date before March 1, 2016 and who will retire before Aug. 31, 2017, will not have any salary reductions.

Sterling said they wanted to exclude the people who will be retiring during these dates from getting a pay deferral because if they did not end up getting the money back, it could affect them for the rest of their lives.

When the UPI agreed to delay their one and a half percent pay raise to save the jobs of some Annually Contracted Faculty, they extended the salary by one year. This August 2017 the contract is supposed to expire, giving the UPI the option to extend it another year to 2018 and they would then have to negotiate what their salary increase would be.

Sterling said they were in effect saying they would put off renegotiating the contract for another year because things were uncertain, which would mean they would take a zero percent salary raise for that extra year.

The UPI executive board met to discuss whether or not to endorse the administration proposal, which then turned into the current proposal.

In a split but majority vote the UPI decided to endorse the proposal as written.

Blitz said endorsing this proposal was not an easy decision on the part of the executive board. The majority voted to endorse, but it was not unanimous.

“What we said was that we would endorse the existing proposal if you added something,” Blitz said.

What was added was the one-year contract extension.

Blitz said for FY17, they would get the one-and-a-half percent increase, but for the FY18 they would get zero percent.

UPI members can choose to voluntarily defer more pay if they notify the Payroll Office before.

If Eastern receives appropriated funds from FY16 or borrows funds against an FY16 appropriation before June 1, 2016, salary reductions will stop.

If the final FY16 appropriation is less than $5 million, the repayment of the salary reductions will not be required.

Sterling said they sat at a table and talked about how things could be done, then the administration gave them a proposal to take back to their members.

He said people were concerned about retirement, since this proposal only covers people who have already filed their retirement date as opposed to people who will retire after that.

Some Unit B members, such as those 29 whose contracts were extended, or those who did not know if they would be brought back in the fall, who were concerned the university would take money out of their paychecks and then say they did not need them, Sterling said.

Bargaining unit members are supposed to receive a full refund of all salary reductions if they are not rehired in fall 2016, but this is only if the university receives an appropriation for FY16 exceeding $27 million.

“There are a lot of people, (for whom) this basically amounts to a 17 percent salary cut for three months and there are a lot people who can’t afford that,” Sterling said.

Sterling said people were willing to help the university out, so there would be a lot of people willing to vote yes, but others who would vote no.

Blitz said the good thing about not taking furlough days was being able to teach classes, but there was no guarantee they would get the deferred money back.

The salary reduction and repayment would also not affect the collective bargaining agreement as much as furlough days would.

Blitz said some of the problem was that some of the things mentioned in the proposal were not as well defined as they should have been, but they were running out of time.

“If we can’t get this into the March paycheck, the price just gets steeper and steeper,” Blitz said. “Because you have less and less months to achieve the asked-for $2 million.”

Billy Hung, media coordinator for the UPI, said the UPI members are trying their best to help Eastern and find the best way to do so.

Presentations on the proposal will be given at 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. Tuesday in the Charleston-Mattoon Room. Voting on the proposal will start Tuesday and end Friday.

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