EIU-UPI to vote on salary deferral proposal

Cassie Buchman, Associate News Editor

Members of Eastern’s chapter of the University Professionals of Illinois are feeling more optimistic about a salary deferral proposal being voted on this week than the proposal put forth by the administration last week.

This new proposal will make it so bargaining unit members with a yearly base salary of $50,000 or less will defer 2.5 percent of their annual base contract salary and those with a salary of $51,000 to $75,000 would defer 5 percent.

If bargaining unit members make $75,000 to $100,000 they will defer 6 and a half percent of their annual salary and those who make more than $100,000 will defer 7 and a half percent.

In this proposal, faculty members would get paid back if Eastern gets any state funding, including money from Monetary Award Program reimbursements,an FY17 appropriation and any funds from the FY16 budget.

Billy Hung, media coordinator for the UPI, said when making the changes they tried to address the problems with the previous proposal.

Hung said they had been talking and listening to the UPI member’s concerns, but also kept in some items that would make it more likely for President David Glassman to approve.

Though he said they will not know the actual results until the votes are counted, from the way people are talking Hung said the new proposal was better received.

There are still concerns, though, such as fixing the language for the repayment process, as some are worried that they will not receive their deferred salary back if the university receives some money from the state that is technically not their appropriation.

Hung said most people seem to be in favor of the graduated scale for salary deferrals, however some wish the percentages were different or that there had been a slightly different income bracket points.

Grant Sterling, vice president of the UPI said there was less controversy about this proposal and people’s questions about the proposal had already been answered at the meetings for the old proposal, so the meeting was shorter.

“I think this proposal will pass solidly assuming the turnout is anything like it was the last time,” Sterling said.

70 percent of eligible voters turned out to vote on the proposal from the administration, which asked for a 5.6 percent salary reduction for all faculty members over a period of three months and which was ultimately rejected.

According to the administration’s proposal, if  there is a FY16 appropriation and Eastern gets $5 million, people with salaries of $50,000 or less will get their deferred pay back.

After that, if  the university gets the second $5 million from the appropriation, people with salaries higher than $50,000 get half of the salary they gave up back.

In the administration’s proposal, if Eastern gets more than $27 million back, 9.2 percent of the amount above $27 millions would be repaid to those with salaries above $50,000. Sterling said if the proposal the administration provided had been written to make it seem like if the university had money faculty would be paid back, it would have been passed.

He said that while some could handle a salary reduction and not necessarily get their salary paid back, there are other faculty members who are not in a position to do so.

“A lot of our younger faculty are still paying off student loans, still paying their mortgages,” Sterling said. “This is not something they can budget for months in advance.”

One of the faculty members Sterling has been talking to has a spouse who was a civil service worker who ended up being laid off, so they already lost half their household income.

“There’s some of our members it’s gonna be a hardship for,” Sterling said.

Sterling said the graduated income brackets in the UPI’s proposal would help lessen this hardship.

Hung said though taking deferrals outlined in the UPI’s plan would still be painful for some faculty members, they tried to make this easier as they would be more likely to be paid back and there would be less taken from those with a lower income.

“We want to protect the members who are most vulnerable,” Hung said.

Sterling said they tried not to make a proposal that was radically different from the one originally offered.

While the UPI would have liked to have done these negotiations weeks ago, Sterling said, last week they gave the proposal to President David Glassman and showed it to those working in payroll so they could see what would happen.

Biology professor Eric Bollinger said he liked the fact that the UPI’s proposal was framed as a salary deferment, while the other proposal was seen as a salary reduction with the possibility of getting paid back.

“That’s much better,” Bollinger said. “I think there’s a reasonable chance (there won’t be a FY16 appropriation) but I think there’s a much better chance there would be one in fiscal year 2017.”

Bollinger is in favor of progressive types of taxations so he likes the fact that the same progressive system is being done with the salary deferral.

He added that some of the language in the administration’s proposal could have been tighter, and a provision stating that if Eastern gets any money from the state the faculty would be paid back.

Bollinger said not getting money back from a salary reduction could be serious for some.

“People that have been around longer like I have tend to have higher salaries but they also have higher expenses,” Bollinger said.

A higher expense Bollinger has is paying for his son’s college education at the University of Illinois.

While English professor Fern Kory prefers the UPI’s proposal, she still voted in favor of the one put forth by the administration.

Kory said she voted for the proposal because it is important to stand in solidarity with everyone who is suffering.

She said she likes that the UPI’s proposal is more graduated, so  it makes a greater distinction between people at different salary levels and how hard they would be hit if more money was taken away at the end of the year.

“Everything that’s happened to any class of employee happens to them a little differently based on how their system works,” Kory said. “This is what we can do. We can’t stop teaching.”

Kory said the salary deferment would still have an impact as it would be a year’s worth of money taken out of two or three paycheck.

“Nobody planned for this,” Kory said. “It’s just the rightest thing we can do right now.”

Donna Binns, also an English professor, said she thought the vagueness of the administration’s proposal disturbed people, so she appreciated the specificity of the new one.

“I’m more optimistic at this one than I was at the last one,” Binns said. “I obviously wish we weren’t in this situation, but we all have to pitch in and help EIU keep going.”

Hung said it is important to come to a decision soon, as if they “run the clock out” on voting for a proposal, the end result would be more painful as the salary reductions would come out of two paychecks instead of three, causing a larger percent to be taken out.

People can vote with paper ballots 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday in the Bridge Lounge of the Martin Luther King Jr. University Union.

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