University of California professors and staff would have to take between 11 and 26 furlough days a year according to a new proposal announced Friday by UC President Mark Yudof. These unpaid days would amount to a 4 to 10 percent pay cut per year.
Some of the primary themes are that the staff and faculty would get additional time off as a result of the program. There’s flexibility on when that time is to be taken, and the holidays will not go unpaid. We’re spreading out the reductions over the year so they do not congregate at one point of the year or the other. It’s pretty even over the 12 months. I’m recommending that we protect the pension benefits at the level of the pre-furlough salaries.
There’s a graduated approach, which many of you recommended. That is, at the lower salary levels only 4 percent will be taken; at the higher salary levels, it will be about 10 percent. There will be added flexibility for the medical centers and for the hospitals and in some cases, for different employee groups. I’ve tried to take all of your concerns to heart although obviously there was a diversity of views, and I could not accede to all of them.
I’ve called it a hybrid, flexible furlough approach. It’s a hybrid in the sense that the deduction will be made each month, regardless of whether the furloughs are taken that month, but by the end of the year, each person will be expected to have taken the requisite number of furlough days.
There are seven graduated tiers. The bottom tier is 11 furlough days for those below $40,000 or roughly a 4 percent pay cut. For those making over $240,000 a year, there will be 26 furlough days, or roughly a 10 percent pay cut. For senior management, the number of furlough days will be limited to 10.
I have, as I said, indicated strongly to the board that we should protect the pension benefits, and I’m very hopeful, at least for this coming year, that that will occur. We’re a very complex institution – it’s not been easy to come up with a plan. We do many different things from treating patients to running hospitals to running auxiliary enterprises to the more traditional academic pursuits of undergraduate and graduate education. And we’ve tried to provide some flexibility in all of that.
We did not consider straight pay cuts because it appears clear that neither faculty nor staff favored that. They preferred that there be some reduction in the work effort. But some special elements to the plan – we have different tables for the faculty on nine month and 12 month salaries.
The furloughs are progressive, with the number of days and proportion of cuts increasing with salary. This represents a major change from the earlier proposal that had but two salary groups and was controversial. Still the proposal is being met with criticism and opposition.
“The principle of shared sacrifice is central to how we will deal with our budget challenges. Given the depth of the funding shortfall, every member of the UC community is being called on to shoulder some of the burden.”
“But make no mistake, these fee increases and systemwide spending cuts carry serious implications for UC, and we need to look at how we are going to maintain UC’s quality and continue to fulfill our promise to the people of California in light of this new reality.”
“No way are we going to be able to look every student in the eyes and say the University of California is just the way it was yesterday,” Yudof said in a teleconference from his Oakland office. He said his plan seeks to be fair while trying to “preserve the university’s ability to deliver high-quality education, research and patient care.”
In video comments he went further:
This is very painful, and there’s no single silver bullet. You need a multiple approach to deal with what is essentially a 20 percent reduction in state funding in a single year. It’s probably little comfort to anyone out there, but it is true that the state government’s going through that. There’s a two-day a month mandatory furlough; municipalities are going through it, private corporations – so, we’re not alone and I hope people understand that.
After many years of teaching constitutional law, I’m firmly of the opinion that there’s no perfect justice out there. There are no perfect choices. We deal with an imperfect world and we do the best that we can. And we tried as best we could to be fair, to be responsive to what we’re hearing from faculty and staff and I hope if you’re not totally enthusiastic about all the responses that we’ve made, you’ll at least understand that these were very difficult choices, and I think it’s very important that we stand together on this.
By having the savings in the form of furloughs, rather than paycuts, it does several things. First, it gives actual time off which can allow savings in the form of transportation and child care. Second, it protects pensions.
However, the plan remains controversial. The plan requires union approval and two of the unions appear to be balking at the proposal. Lakeesha Harrison, president of AFSCME Local 3299 which represents service and patient-care workers suggested that before asking lower-wage employees for givebacks, the UC should first cut high executive pay and benefits. She was quoted in the LA Times as saying that she “”no interest in talking about furloughing us or cutting us. We are saying no.”
Kathryn Lybarger from UC Berkeley told the Daily Californian:
“There are so many other places in the UC budget that can be tapped to cover the shortfall before working families are hurt, before students are hurt.”
Kevin Scott a UC Davis research associate and member of UPTE agrees that the instead of the furloughing of workers, UC should cut back administrator pay and scale back on building projects.
“Many people who work for the university are underpaid as it is,” he said.
UC Spokesperson Ricardo Vazquez said cutting executive pay would do little to close the University’s budget deficit.
“Compensation for senior management is less than 1 percent of our overall payroll. Even if you eliminated that entirely, you would not be able to resolve the problem.”
The Sacramento Bee reported that faculty was more favorable towards the plan.
However, Professor George Lakoff, a prestigious professor at of Cognitive Science and Linguistics at UC Berkeley sent out a letter over the weekend in strong opposition to the plan.
In a letter to the UC Board of Regents he wrote:
“The university has an overall $19 billion budget. The salary cuts for faculty and staff of $195 million represents about one percent of the overall budget.”
“President Yudof has said, “There’s no way we’ll be able to look students in the eye and say this will be the same university.” He’s right. The University of California has reached a tipping point…
UC has more Nobel laureates than any other university. Cuts in faculty and staff salaries will lead many of our most distinguished faculty to accept competing offers. With them will go their grants, which will deepen the crisis and lead to a cycle of ever more cuts and departures. The result will be a third-rate university system. When too much is cut, you cannot attract and rebuild a great faculty.”
The thing we face according to Professor Lakoff is “tyranny of the minority.”
“Right now a minority one-third plus one in the legislature determines our revenues and budget. This a tyranny of the minority, and that tyranny threatens one of the world’s great institutions, the institution that you are guardians of.
You have a moral obligation to protect this institution from the tyranny of the minority.
Through your access to the press, to business interests, and especially to the hundreds of thousands of UC alumni throughout the state, you have a power you can and should exercise: the power of information, and behind it, the moral authority of majority rule, that is, the authority of democracy itself.”
Does Professor Lakoff represent the minority view? His letter is circulating faculty circles at the moment trying to gather signatures. On the other hand, the University did a tremendous job of altering their initial plan based on surveys which showed the furlough plan the least controversial of the proposed cuts. The furlough enables employees to at least gain time off in exchange for their paycut, it preserves pensions, and the graduated approach addresses a key concern about inequity. Still one cannot help but look at the pay laid out to top executive such as President Mark Yudof ($800,000+) and Chancellor Linda Katehi ($400,000+) without at least shaking one’s head at the folly.
—David M. Greenwald reporting