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UC proposes furlough plan for employees to help close $813-million gap

Faculty and other workers would be required to take between 11 and 26 unpaid days off under plan presented by UC President Mark Yudof.

July 11, 2009|Larry Gordon

Most University of California professors and staff would have to take between 11 and 26 unpaid furlough days a year, cutting their pay by 4% to 10% under a revised budget proposal announced Friday by UC President Mark Yudof.

The UC Board of Regents is expected to approve the emergency plan next week in response to deep reductions in anticipated state funding. Approval by labor unions is needed for about half of the 109,000 affected employees at the UC's 10 campuses, and some unions Friday expressed strong opposition.

The proposed furlough days would progress in seven steps up the pay scale, from those earning less than $40,000 to those above $240,000. For example, the group earning $60,001 to $90,000 would face 18 furlough days, equal to a 7% pay cut. The stepped plan is a major change from a controversial earlier proposal that had only two salary groups, and from an idea to cut pay without offering furloughs in exchange.

Faculty leaders said professors would not be allowed to skip classes for their furlough days. But with the furloughs, staff layoffs and numerous program reductions expected at UC campuses, students will feel an impact, officials said.

"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."

UC officials said the furloughs, if approved, would save $184 million during the next academic year. That would help fill an expected gap of $813 million, or about 20%,in state general revenue funds for the UC in the just-completed school year and next year. The rest would come from a recently approved 9.3% increase in student fees and other spending cuts by the university system.

Yudof said the UC would not follow the California State University system's recent decision to seek a second student fee increase now for next year. He did not rule out the possibility of an extra fee hike in the middle of the school year. "There could be one in January. It depends on how tough things get," he said.

In response to faculty protests about an earlier version of his plan, Yudof's proposal exempts from furloughs and pay cuts those professors and staff whose salaries are fully funded by federal or private research grants.

Many researchers had complained that the previous plan included them even though cutting their salaries would not help the university system's budget.

Officials said they need to study how to handle employees whose pay is partly funded by grants.

Student employees and postdoctoral fellows would be exempt from the furloughs under the plan and, to the relief of many employees, salary-based calculations for pensions would not be reduced.

Several faculty labor leaders called Yudof's revised plan an improvement, but they said it still faced tough going with unions.

Lakesha Harrison, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3299, which represents service and patient-care workers, said she had "no interest in talking about furloughing us or cutting us. We are saying no." Before asking lower-wage employees for givebacks, the UC should first cut high executive pay and benefits, she said.

Also Friday, Russell Gould, the chairman of the Board of Regents, said he will form a commission to study possible wide-reaching changes in how the UC operates and teaches in an era of tight budgets. It will look at such areas as the university's use of technology and how big the UC should be.

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larry.gordon@latimes.com

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