Furlough Follies: Cheng Will Take Six Days
Last week I wrote two posts (one, two) criticizing SIUC Chancellor Rita Cheng for refusing to follow President Poshard’s lead and take six furlough days. Friday, in an email to SIUC students and staff, Cheng reversed herself:
After considering input I have received from many of you, I plan to take six unpaid closure days. Each vice chancellor will take five unpaid closure days.
This was the right move. I’m glad Cheng is willing to acknowledge mistakes and change course. I wonder if Cheng came to this decision herself, or if Poshard intervened behind the scenes. Either way, I am satisfied with the result.
In the same email, Cheng announced a program to help the employees most hurt by furloughs:
In addition, the SIU Foundation Board of Directors is providing a one-time grant of $10,000 to the University to serve as a source of emergency funds for employees during the current fiscal year. Board members have agreed to take this unprecedented action to respond to the possible need for emergency relief. The maximum amount available to an employee is limited to the value of the four closure days. Specifics about this program will be available early next week through the Human Resources office. Any funds remaining at the end of this fiscal year will be transferred into the new scholarship program.
I’m pretty surprised at this use of Foundation funds. I’m not necessarily against it, but it is unusual. I’m glad the University is making an effort to blunt the impact furloughs will have on SIUC’s lowest paid employees, but I think a better option would have been simply exempting the lowest paid employees from furlough days.
There hasn’t been any communication from the unions. I hope the unions still fighting the furlough days will admit the need for labor cost reductions and agree to take the days. I’ve posted previously about over-staffing at SIUC. Furloughs are a way to reduce labor cost without permanent layoffs.
If the unions want to avoid layoffs, they should agree to furloughs.
Comments are welcome.