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UC panel approves 11 to 26 furlough days for employees

The furloughs would affect as many as 140,000 faculty and staff at the 10 university campuses, with higher-paid employees taking larger pay cuts. Unions would have to approve the plan, officials say.

July 16, 2009|Larry Gordon

SAN FRANCISCO — A University of California Regents panel approved an emergency plan Wednesday for most faculty and staff to take 11 to 26 unpaid furlough days next school year to offset deep cuts in state funding.

But the furlough proposal, which was endorsed despite protests by labor unions, would be only part of a broad retrenchment across the 10-campus UC system, officials said. Administrators spoke of faculty hiring freezes, fewer course offerings, larger class sizes, reduced library hours and program eliminations.

Meeting in San Francisco, the regents finance committee voted 11-1 for the furloughs, with the full board expected to approve the plan today.

As many as 140,000 of UC's 180,000 full- and part-time employees could be affected by the furloughs; about half of those are represented by unions that would have to agree to the cuts. Some unions said they planned to resist unless university leaders look into tapping other potential revenue sources, such as endowment funds, to maintain salaries, and agree to cut executives' pay more significantly.

Jelger Kalmijn, president of the union that represents university lab workers and pharmacists, noted that state funding accounts for only about a fifth of the UC system's $19-billion annual budget and said the regents should use reserves to avoid furloughs.

"You use reserves for bad times. These are bad times," said Kalmijn, a research associate at UC San Diego.

He was among more than 100 labor demonstrators who picketed outside the meeting at a UC San Francisco facility, and some later briefly interrupted the session with chanting. A similar rally was held at UCLA.

UC President Mark G. Yudof said he would be forced to resort to layoffs if the unions don't agree to the reductions. "No one likes a pay cut but no one likes being laid off either. So you have to make some tough choices," he said.

Yudof emphasized that state general revenue funds for the university are expected to decline by about $800 million, or 20%, for the past academic year and the upcoming one. He also said that the use of most endowment money is restricted.

Of the finance committee members, only Lt. Gov. John Garamendi voted against the furloughs, saying he wanted the regents to support a proposed oil and gas tax that would help fund higher education. Most regents said they were reluctant to weigh in on the idea without knowing more about it.

Many faculty and staff, even those who opposed the furloughs, said the plan was better than an earlier version because it exempts employees whose salaries come wholly from outside grants and because it shifts more of the burden to those who make more.

The furloughs are expected to plug about a fourth of UC's budget deficit, with the rest coming from a recently approved student fee increase and from program and staffing cuts.

The leaders of UC's 10 campuses on Wednesday cited numerous recent and forthcoming changes that they said could cause top faculty to jump ship to other universities.

"The impact on UCLA, like the impact on the other campuses, is going to be profound and painful but we will do the best we can to manage through it," UCLA Chancellor Gene Block said.

He predicted, for instance, that the number of UCLA class sections will drop by about 10%, making it harder for undergraduates to earn a degree within four years.

Leaders of the 10 campuses also announced: the end of a high-profile guest lecturer series at UC Irvine; reducing honors classes and suspending plans for a new public policy school at UC Riverside; a faculty hiring freeze at UC San Diego; and closing UC Berkeley's main library on Saturdays.

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larry.gordon@latimes.com

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