Faculty forced to take furlough

In an effort to reduce University spending by a projected $17 million over the next two years  UH Administration will initiate a mandatory furlough program for all faculty and staff taking effect during the spring 2010 semester.

Faculty, staff and student workers currently earning $30,000 or less are exempt from the program.

The initiative calls for faculty and staff to take one day off without pay prior to the end of the semester.  A voluntary furlough program is set to begin for the summer 2010 semester, allowing for up to three days off without pay.

Provost John Antel said the one-day furlough program is projected to save the University roughly $1 million.

“We will have to do a lot of other painful cost cutting to even make our cuts for this year,” Antel said. “The furlough program is hopefully only for this year.  We do not like to do furloughs or reductions in force unless it is really necessary.”

The furlough program is only one measure being taken and outlined in the University’s Cost Saving Plan memo issued earlier this semester, and it is the first time the University has been forced to do something like this.

Although employees required to take the day off understand the need to cut costs, some feel the furlough is unfair.

“I am not sure I agree because I do not know what the alternative solutions are being offered,” a hotel and restaurant management professor said anonymously.

A mathematics professor, who also wished to remain anonymous, said although the impact to his finances will be minimal, he feels the furlough conflicts with the contract that outlines professor salaries.

“I am a little conflicted on this point. On one hand, I understand the importance of the University applying cost saving measures to meet current statewide budget shortfalls. But the University also tells professors that they are hired at a certain 9 month salary, and the furlough cuts into this amount,” the professor said.

In an e-mail to all UH employees, Executive Vice President of Administration and Finance Carl Carlucci wrote that the University has “made every effort to minimize impact on our people and avoid layoffs. This furlough program is a necessary step to comply with our budget reduction mandate.”

Detailed in the University’s Cost Savings Plan are projected cuts and reductions in departmental travel expenditures by 10 percent, as well as reduction in communication allowance.

According to the memo, departmental overtime payments will see a reduction of 40 percent and the University will step up its recycling efforts as well as being proactive in conserving energy usage in all buildings.

Also in question with the cost cutting moves are faculty salary increases for 2010.

According to an April 9 memo issued by Antel entitled UH Fiscal Challenges, a 3 percent raise for faculty and staff is still a priority.

The Board of Regents will make a final decision on whether raises will be approved for this year during their May meeting.

“We are really concerned with retaining our great faculty.  Even though the economy is just starting to recover, we still see some universities trying to hire our faculty.  We did not do raises last year, so two years in a row would be a problem,” Antel said.

The University’s cost cutting measures are a result of a decline in both current state funding and projected future state funding shortfalls. Reductions of State University funding are attributed by the Governor’s office to a decline in sales tax revenues.

“The governor’s office cited the decline in sales-tax collections as a key factor. Also cited were the uncertainties of the nation’s financial difficulties and a desire to remain fiscally responsible, while protecting taxpayers’ interests,” Carlucci said.

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