Furloughs at SIUC: The Flat Earthers Revolt
The Southern Illinoisan reported last week that Chancellor Rita Cheng announced the dates of the upcoming furloughs in an email to all staff. Several unions on campus have accepted the inevitable and agreed to the furlough days. Unfortunately for SIUC and the employees they represent, some unions have chosen to bury their heads in the sand and deny that furloughs are necessary.
From Cheng’s email:
As of today’s date, we have not yet been able to reach agreement with some bargaining units. For these units, including the Faculty Association, the Non-Tenure Track Faculty Association, the Association of Civil Service Employees, Illinois Fraternal Order of Police Labor Council, and AFSCME Local # 878, we will continue to consider all options to reach our savings goals. Those options include layoffs of bargaining unit employees. While layoffs are not our first choice, they may become necessary to achieve a balanced University budget. We intend to continue bargaining in good faith with these units in order to reach some type of mutually acceptable resolution.
Suggestions on ways in which we can avoid layoffs for these units should be directed to the applicable union representatives so that employees’ ideas or opinions are expressed through the appropriate labor organization. As always, we encourage all represented employees to work with their bargaining unit and labor union leadership, as we work with those organizations to resolve these issues.
So these five unions (the Foolish Five) are unwilling to recognize the facts of the situation at SIUC, and now the employees they represent are vulnerable to layoffs. Notice the second paragraph, where Cheng urges employees whose unions have not agreed to furloughs to communicate with their union leaders. Hopefully bargaining union employees are reining in their foolish and irresponsible union leadership.
My understanding is that the Foolish Five refused to accept furloughs a few days before Cheng sent the announcement email on November 3. The Faculty Association has a “white paper” (pdf) dated November 1 on their website. This is a truly stunning document. Here is the final sentence:
Rather than pursuing the destructive short-term expedient of administrative closures, then, we believe that SIUC ought to strive to redirect its priorities and its spending to what matters most: to our research, to our creative work, to our service on behalf of our state and our region, and to the education of our students.
Okay, great. Research and creative work should be the priorities at SIUC. In normal times, I’d agree. These aren’t normal times. Enrollment has declined by 11% since fall of 2000. Meanwhile, employment has grown by 11%. Faculty employment has grown by 8% during this period. I have posted about this before. SIUC has a $2.5 million budget gap. I don’t see how that gap can be filled without touching labor cost.
I don’t think the authors of the Faculty Association statement understand the fiscal situation at SIUC. On page 2, in a section called “Administrative closures are not a fiscal necessity,” the authors repeatedly refer to delays in state payments. The $2.5 million budget hole isn’t the temporary result of late payments from the state. SIUC doesn’t have the money to cover its costs for the year, and the state isn’t going to issue a check to fill the gap. The only option is to reduce costs. Either the authors don’t understand that, or they are intentionally trying to mislead.
The Foolish Five are planning to hold a joint meeting today, November, 9 2010 at 4:45 pm in the student center auditorium. The announcement for the meeting asked “Do you really deserve a pay-cut?” (emphasis in original). This isn’t a question of what people deserve. It is a question of what’s necessary during a budget crisis. I encourage those employees represented by the Foolish Five to attend the meeting and demand responsible behavior from their union leadership.
The Foolish Five are: Association of Civil Service Employees (ACsE), SIUC Faculty Association (FA), SIUC Non-Tenure Track Faculty Association (NTTFA), SIUC Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), and AFSCME Local 878.
I’m planning to write more about this in the future.
Comments are welcome.