Furlough Follies: Cheng’s Misstep Worse than I Realized
I’ve been posting about the upcoming furloughs all week. Initially, I was critical of five SIUC unions that have refused to cooperate with furloughs. I dubbed them the Foolish Five. As more information becomes available, my views are starting to change.
I mentioned this in yesterday’s post, but I was disappointed with Chancellor Cheng’s decision not to take six furlough days herself, two more than other employees are taking. Wednesday’s Daily Egyptian had a quote from Cheng that I found shocking. In response to a question asking if she would take six furlough days, Cheng said:
“I’m not going to be putting my stuff in the coffer,” she said. “I could work for free for 10 years and still not make up the budget.”
Is she serious? She’s not going to put her stuff in the coffer? This is absolutely stunning. Cheng’s salary is approximately seventeen times the salary of the lowest paid staff at SIUC. She can’t take two extra days to contribute to morale and demonstrate her commitment to a fiscally responsible university?
Meanwhile, at least one SIUC union is advising its members that they may be eligible for overtime or compensatory time off because they will be working on an administrative closure day. If they’re right, some workers will take an unpaid day, while others either get extra pay or a paid day off.
I understand that SIUC faces a budget shortage, and that drastic measures may be necessary. But I am beginning to think it’s unwise for SIUC to proceed until all the unions have agreed to the furlough days. It may be time to cancel the November 24 furlough day and return to the bargaining table.
Unfortunately, some unions still refuse to even accept that there is a budget crisis. Perhaps if Cheng showed a willingness to go the extra mile and take two extra furlough days, the remaining unions might be persuaded of the reality of the budget situation.
SIUC should definitely not proceed with partial furloughs if the employees not subject to furloughs are going to get overtime pay or compensatory time off. SIUC should cancel the first furlough, settle these issues, and schedule a replacement furlough day in May after students have left.
Comments are welcome.