Furlough policy feedback deadline and an opportunity to provide input to regulation development

UA is moving forward to seek approval of a furlough policy by the Board of Regents in September. The president and Chief HR Officer asked Staff Alliance for names of volunteers who would like to work with the CHRO and General Counsel to identify help shape the regulations attached to the policy.

I want to thank everyone who has already taken the time to provide feedback through our blog (https://uastaffalliance.wordpress.com/2014/06/03/feedback-requested-on-draft-furlough-policy/) or through e-mail. I want to extend the invitation to participate in the process further by volunteering for this committee or providing additional input on the language of the proposed policy.

Staff Alliance will be meeting on Thursday morning, Aug. 28,  to approve our final response to the policy proposal prior to the September Regents meeting. While most details will be developed in regulations, the overall power and control is in policy. Please provide any further feedback on the proposed policy language by August 27.

I understand that the beginning of the school year is a busy time, but we would like the committee to meet to discuss potential regulations prior to the September BOR meeting, so that an introduction of what may or may not be included in the regulations can be part of the presentation of the policy.

If you are interested please let me know at mmusick@alaska.edu or call 450-8103. If you simply have ideas or suggestions please send them to me, post them to the blog, or contact your local governance representative and we will bring your ideas and concerns to the table.

Thank You,
Monique Musick
Staff Alliance Chair

 

PROPOSED POLICY LANGUAGE:

P04.07.115  Employee Furlough

  1.  Effective January 1, 2015, to address budgetary shortfalls in any unit of the university employees may be subject to furlough via temporary unpaid leaves of absence or prospective, temporary reductions in pay.
  2.  Furloughs shall be implemented in accordance with regulations and plans approved by the president pursuant to this policy, provided however that employees shall receive written notice of furlough as provided by regulation.
  3.  Furlough plans may be implemented notwithstanding any other regents’ policy, university regulation or university or campus practice or procedure and are subject to review only as may be provided in regulations adopted pursuant to this policy.



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23 Comments

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23 responses to “Furlough policy feedback deadline and an opportunity to provide input to regulation development

  1. First – a general observation: The shortfall created by SB1 has to be dealt with somehow. The fact that the state is now running at a deficit and we are state employees, but not protected by a union like those who work for the state directly, means we are obvious targets. Yet I don’t see many employees bothering to comment. That surprises me, really.

    Second – comments on the wording: The policy is too vaguely worded and does not convey important details, as Martin Miller so aptly pointed out. How long is temporary; do we all bear the burden of short falls on each campus; can furloughs be avoided by staying within budget; will benefits continue; will we be presented with the option of reduced pay over furlough; am I the only one concerned that “Furlough plans may be implemented notwithstanding any other regents’ policy, university regulation or university or campus practice or procedure and are subject to review only as may be provided in regulations adopted pursuant to this policy.”? This sounds dictatorial and places a great deal of power into the hands of .. into the hands of who exactly?

    Third – If we are informed that furloughs are needed, then egalitarian that I am, I think in good conscience that needs to be spread out among all of us, not just a few who are targeted. Everyone needs to pay their rent, mortgage, car payment, medical deductible, heating oil bill. No one is exempt from that. So, we should have the option of specifying how we want the furlough (at one go or one day a week or one day a pay period or one day a month – whatever it works out to be).

    • Bobbie Farfalla-Ivanoff

      Linda, you raised some very good questions.
      I need to give this a bit of considerations.

      • Bobbie Farfalla-Ivanoff

        “..are subject to review only as may be provided in regulations adopted pursuant to this policy..” this sounds like some type of regulatory review process needs to be in place before, like now…to be included in a furlough policy….

  2. By nature, policy is quite broad and generalized and the details go into regulations. That is precisely why it is so important to be involved in the development of these regulations. We’d love to hear from people exactly the kinds of things that they wouldn’t stand for, and things that they could, as we contribute to the development of regulations regarding this topic. For instance exempting employees under a particular income level, allowing for voluntary reductions in work year before implementing furloughs, limiting the number of days so as to not interfere with retirement benefits and service credit, and more.

    I asked specifically about that wording myself. A great example are the union contracts or collective bargaining agreements. As you say, UNAC/UAFT/UNAD do not have furloughs in their CBAs, but that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t have to meet the same budget reduction deemed necessary to furlough other employees, it means their only tool would be layoffs. The second part of that statement, allowing for review, will also be an important part of the regulations. If it was projected that 5 furlough days were needed to remain within budget but actually we were caught up after 3 we’d want the others go away. It allows a little necessary wiggle room, but could be more clearly stated.

  3. Concerned Employee

    First,
    People are not quick to post comments, as that puts a target on their back for not being a compliant UAA employee.

    Second,
    I’m appalled that the BOR is still considering the furlough plan to take money from then hard working staff but yet in the same breath they want to give the UA president a $350,000 bonus to complete a contract that he is already obligated to complete (hence the term contract).

    Third,
    The only people that will be hurt by this plan is the un-unionized staff. Management who should be the first to volunteer to furlough some time will not be obligate, As pointed out, Faculty cant be furloughed because of their contract. You can’t layoff an instructor during a teaching semester.

    The burden of the workload is already on an overworked and underpaid staff pool. Management has already cut unfilled positions and shuffled more workload to staff with no additional compensation, The attitude of the upper management is such that they think we should all just be grateful we have jobs. Now they want to add the burden of furloughs to us. What they are not saying is that we will be paid less and still expected to meet critical deadlines and workload responsibilities with less time. Because lets face it if staff are gone the work will NOT get done. But if we miss a deadline Staff will be blamed!

    Fourth,
    I think instead of constantly looking to staff to take the hit for financial shortfalls, we need to look at the management that is supposed to be overseeing the budgets in the first place. There are so many other avenues to look at tightening the purse strings then constantly making staff pay for upper management mis-management of funds and wasteful spending that some faculty don’t think twice about. (i.e. You don’t need the most expensive ,computer, with more bells and whistles that you don’t even know how to use, you don’t need the most expensive pens that right upside-down, or traveling to a conference with such short notice that you pay the highest fare there is, nor do you need to stay in the most expensive hotel because you like the sheets better) In all my years here I have seen staff try to be good fiscal stewards for the university’s funds while having to battle an entitlement attitude from upper-management and faculty.

    Why don’t those BOR members and upper management lead buy example. If we are short funded its because MANAGEMENT didnt do their job. Not becasue we as staff didnt do ours!

    This and $4.50 will buy you a smoothie! I now end this rant and return you to your regularly schedule coffee break!

    • Bobbie Farfalla-Ivanoff

      You made some very good points. I did read an article from the President in which he stated he did not feel the offer of a bonus pay was fiscally responsible thing to do at this time; another article said that Faculty could be lay off, not furloughed; and my thoughts are that instead of going down the pyramid looking for ways to cut costs – UAA should be moving up to the legislatures at both the state and federal level to request a larger percent of US taxpayer money be channeled and used for schools and universities – INSTEAD on other wasteful expenditures which offer no benefits to employees, citizens, students. ( I could list them – but that is another discussion)

  4. Chip

    You found a smoothie for $4.50. Where?

  5. Chip

    A couple of thoughts. Based on my experience down south people are reluctant to comment for a variety of reasons ranging from fear of reprisal to not taking the concept seriously. Doesn’t make anyone bad, just human.

    Anyone who fears reprisal might wish to contact their local staff alliance rep or their HR guru to discuss their concerns. It also wouldn’t hurt to have HR/staff alliance reach out to the masses to reassure them of the ability to comment professionally without reprisal. If you are really worried, then you should sit this out. Find a colleague you trust to relay your concerns.

    I’m not a big fan of it, but the bonus promised the president is (I believe) a part of his contract. The UA system should honor its commitments to him the same way they should honor their commitments to us. What we really should take away from this is if its appropriate to make a similar deal with his successor.

    The concept of anything falling disproportionally hard on non union staff is troubling. My guess- emphasis guess- is the UA system will look at this very carefully to avoid potential discrimination lawsuits. The whole union/non-union issue is one of the 1000 lbs gorillas sitting in the room.

    Another big issue is making sure management shares proportionally in the hit. In Georgia it was extremely murky who, if anyone in upper management, was furloughed or laid off. We’re either all in this together or we’re not. If we’re not….its not pretty. Not at all.

  6. Chip

    Again, the most important thing to remember right now is nothing has happened yet, and so far we have little actionable evidence it will.

    Lets not jump at shadows. Watch the Watchmen-carefully, but sanely.
    There will almost always be more talk than action in these matters.

  7. Concerned Employee

    Chip,
    Wish I could be as optimistic as you, and as trusting.
    One thing you are not realizing is the HR is here to protect the University, not the employees. Going to HR just makes the Target on your back that much larger. I know I have seen it happen in more than one instance in my long career at this institution. Having been part of our governance body in the past I understand that they mean well but as a whole they are ineffective at advocating for the rights of staff. Not for any lack of trying but simply because upper management doesn’t see them as any kind of power in the UA System.
    We are already seeing at the lower level, management targeting positions below them as non essential. The reality is that with the workloads most of the hourly staff carry makes us essential. where as upper management is less essential to the day to day operations of a college or department.

    We as a department can get by without them for a few weeks every year by shifting signature authority to an assoc director, dean or office manager. But I do not think you will find a person in upper management that would be willing to carry my workload for a week. While management is gone those below them have the ability and training to fill in for their job duties.

    The reverse can not be said of management. The last vacation I took there was one fiscal position open and unfilled in my department, myself and one other handling the workload of 3, plus all the additional things our boss threw our way simply because she really didn’t know how to do it. After having a wonderful two week vacation I came back to my office with mountains of work to catch up on and looming deadline because my coworker was already overloaded and our management had no clue how to do my job effectively or correctly. It took me over a month to clean up all the piles that had been shuffled to my desk because I wasn’t there.

    The other thing that kills me about all of this…….This administration is a big part of the reason we are facing such drastic shortfalls…. yet now this same administration is tasked with trying to figure out how to fix the problem that they themselves created by not being better fiscal steward of the money given to the university.

    Constantly pushing to build new buildings at the expense of not being able to maintain the buildings or have employees to work in them.

    I understand that this university wants to be an innovative, technology advance University, But what good is the advancement of this institution if we cannot even manage the infrastructure we already have?. UAA used to be a much sought after work place, now alot of us are already dusting off our resumes as we have families to support and we constantly feel unappreciated and undervalued.

    This is as you say Chip, not set in stone, but I assure you it will be. And it will be written in a way that only protects the university interest at the cost of staff being the collateral damage in the implosion that will come from this policy.

    The fact that UA employees do not even get a vote as to if we want this policy is the proof in the pudding that the BOR is not looking out for our jobs or our future as a community, They are looking out for themselves and their interest.

    In the past 5 years, BOR has eliminated our step increases, eliminated a wellness plan that was working for us, only to replace it with a less efficient phone service, and has on more than one occasion tried to reduce and/or eliminate our tuition waiver benefits. But we shouldn’t worry because it was all, at one time, just talk.

    • Chip

      Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big believer in trust but verify. And to be very stingy with the amount of trust extended. But we must let this play itself out.

      More importantly, we can’t psych ourselves out into creating a situation worse than it is. I’ve been here before and seen it happen. As i see it our best play is to get razor sharp on how much we do, what happens if we don’t do it, and the impact we have on the institution.

      I understand your reluctance to speak out. I’ve seen what can happen, and it’s not pretty. But the simple truth is if we don’t voice our concerns now, who will later?

    • Boy Concerned Employee have you hit the nail on the head with all you have said in reference to what the BOR has and is doing to the welfare of the employees of the UA system. First the BOG without really putting to thought about their decision of giving the President the bonus what impact it would create. How can a governing body logically see it right to give this huge bonus with such cutback needed and employees being let go. Granted, I greatly appreciate our President and believe he is doing a good job; like the rest of us. Do any of us receive a huge bonus simply for doing the job we signed up for? NO we don’t ,so why should he?

      While we are on the topics of what has gone array; let’s speak about for a moment of how we are being pushed by our UA system to order all our medications through mail order. If we don’t get our prescriptions this way we get penalized for having a instate pharmacy. NOT by a little amount, let get real here; it is double the cost. How is that fair or right???? We the employees of the UA system should not be penalized for choosing to use a local instate pharmacy. If the people in charge of making the decisions for the whole have done this to its employees so far; who knows what lengths they will go to, just to get their own budgets in line that they let get out of control.

      Thanks for letting me voice my concerns.

      From another very concerned employee…

  8. Concerned

    I have many concerns related to the proposed policy. As has been stated in many of the comments above, the burden for the budget shortfall seems to be falling on the lower paid staff. I see many places that budgets can be trimmed in large ways in the University – why are there two brand new multi-million dollar Engineering Buildings going up on two separate campuses? Why can’t the University truly stop duplicating such large departments and instead combine efforts into one efficient and effective department for each major discipline? – truly emphasize certain disciplines for each campus.
    Additionally, I don’t know the numbers, but assume programs such as Skillsoft, Healthy Roads, and the new travel system have cost the University millions of dollars combined. We are a University! – let our (accounting, HR, etc.) departments do the employee/staff training, let our (Health Care systems) departments create an online health care maintenance program, have our (Business and IT) departments create a useable travel system that integrates with Banner. These other outside systems have cost us plenty and are incredibly cumbersome to use and have created more work, rather than less, for hourly employees.

    • Bobbie Farfalla-Ivanoff

      “We are a University” – agree…why not have university employees design, create; and implement programs that fit our needs. Great training also for students members of these design teams…..I agree

  9. John French

    What happens to healthcare and other benefits. Are any retained during the ‘furlough’?

  10. Fairbanks Staff

    Furloughs or Leave Without Pay periods currently impact retirement and anniversary dates. If a forced furlough were to come, I would like to see language preventing that from happening (i.e. 1 year still occurs at a calendar year instead of 12 mos. worked).

    I also think the length of time of “temporary furloughs” should be addressed and amount of notice required.

  11. HMMMM!

    I heard a little story today about an article that was removed from the Northern Lights paper. It was something along the lines of: If the top 1% of earners in the university moved to a 4 day vs 5 day week for one semester. That would cover the university shortfall and have a little extra cushion. I wonder why that store would be cut when the information would be extremely useful. But then again this was just a rumor I heard.

  12. They decided this afternoon to make this a first reading of the proposed furlough policy. It would likely then be proposed for adoption at a future meeting. This should give governance groups more time to review and comment on the policy and regulations.

    • HMMMM!

      So where is the first reading and why are we as staff not seeing it listed here? Is it still the same vague language that was originally posted? How can a policy be implemented before all the technicalities and impact be fully fleshed out?

  13. Advocate of Common Sense

    As I understand this policy, we will continue to pay employees 100% of their benefits and have them work less. Thus, benefits will become an even greater percentage of employee compensation while arranging for employees to be less productive (and likely more disgruntled). What a great strategy; let’s anger and frustrate the best and brightest among our employees by giving them less pay and time off to look for other positions!

    Clearly this policy was either not written to apply to faculty or was proposed by an individual or individual(s) who lacks any knowledge of how faculty carry out their professional responsibilities. So, if galleys for a potential publication come in and have to be returned in 24-48 hours, if there is a question on a grant application, if students have questions outside of class on course material or assignments, if a faculty member is scheduled to present at a conference, if a faculty member is taking a course to improve their knowledge and skills, if a faculty member is working with an undergraduate or graduate student on a thesis or research study and the student has questions they need answered in order to proceed with their work, if a faculty wants to engage in a professional development opportunity, or if a faculty member is serving in the community as a Board member or in another capacity, or if assignments need to be graded, or if the faculty is serving on a university committee or task force, etc.? I guess if any of this occurs on a day when faculty are not permitted to work because they are unpaid leave, the article or book chapter will not be published; the students will have to wait for answers and likely become dissatisfied and take their education dollars elsewhere and, sadly, students will likely learn less; the conference presentation will not be made; the course will have to be dropped and the faculty member will be less qualified to do his/her work; the promising student researcher will have to wait for assistance, learn less, and maybe delay graduation because of repeated interruption in their progress and take their education dollars elsewhere; the professional development opportunity will be foregone, the Board or organization will have to do without the services of the faculty representative of the university in the public square; the students will not receive timely feedback on their assignments; university service will get done more slowly or not at all, etc. etc., etc. Faculty work at the office, in airports, hotel rooms, hospitals, doctor’s office, libraries, at home, or wherever they have a Wi-Fi connection and/or access to their briefcases. Faculty work all hours of the day and weekends. For many, 60 hours per week is a light workload. This is not a complaint as most faculty signed on for this and love what they do. (I spoke recently with a gentlemen whose wife was a lawyer who worked long hours on complex legal cases; he indicated that, now that she has become a faculty member, she works substantially longer hours for less money.) Instead, this is a reality check for anyone who is clinging to the foolish notion that faculty work a 9-5 schedule and can just drop a day out of their week without dire consequences in the quality of classroom experience provided resulting in reductions in student satisfaction and learning,, a dramatic reduction in research activity and grant getting, greatly diminished interaction with the surrounding community, and extensive damage to the reputation and productivity of this university.

    Does the State of Alaska want universities for our citizens or not? If so, what programs and functions should be sustained? If so, what innovations would enhance our productivity? How can we spend the money we have to the best effect? Years ago, I worked for a manufacturing company where, during hard economic times, the factory workers went from working five to four days a week with the concomitant reduction in pay. The decision was that if the factory was on a reduced schedule, then management needed to work more hours to turn things around. So, we worked a six-day week until the factory employees went back to five-day work weeks. Administrators and members of the Board of Regents, how about stepping up to the plate and spend your time productively instead of taking away from the folks who can least afford pay reductions? Why aren’t we working toward become a premier deliverer of online courses? (We have the talent and the training opportunities.) Why aren’t we providing more support to the grant getters who bring in money and the researchers who enhance our reputation worldwide? Why aren’t we instituting greater efficiencies as to the programs and services we offer? Why aren’t you parked outside the legislators offices making our case for us?

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