With California caught in financial turmoil, the University of California wants its employees to share the pain.
In a June 30 letter posted to university employees, UC President Mark Yudof said staff are telling him they don’t want flat, across-the-board pay cuts.
And unions representing faculty and staff who are paid from outside funding sources are asking why their pay should be cut as well.
With the state budget in crisis and the Legislature adjourning without passing a budget, the state faces a fiscal emergency unlike any seen since the Great Depression.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger issued an order for all state employees to take a third unpaid day off monthly, in addition to the two he had already ordered, to help with the anticipated budget deficit he now estimates at $26.3 billion.
UC Berkeley receives about 20 percent of its funding from the state, with the remainder coming from donors, federal and corporate grants and other public and private sector funding sources.
After soliciting proposals from workers in a June 17 letter, Yudof wrote Tuesday that the university has been “strongly encouraged to develop a graduated approach for these reductions with higher compensated employees absorbing a larger reduction.”
Such a move would clearly affect the UC president, whose annual pay and benefits package totals about $828,000.
In his earlier letter, Yudof had written that pay cuts and unpaid time off have been earmarked to cover $195 million, one quarter of the system’s projected $800 million state budget shortfall. Already approved student fee hikes of $211 million would take up another quarter.
“The remainder of the cuts will fall to the campuses, and likely will affect course availability, class size, student services, and other aspects of the educational program,” Yudof wrote in mid-June.
“These are unprecedented times, and we are facing unprecedented challenges,” said the university system’s chief executive. “The university has never faced a funding crisis of this magnitude and responding to it will require sacrifice from every member of the university community.”
Representatives of Berkeley University Professional and Technical Employees (UPTE) Local 1, a unit of Communications Workers of America UPTE local 9119, have questioned cuts for the 90 percent of their members who are funded by grants, a concern shared by Michelle Squitieri, UCB representative of the American Federation of Teachers Berkeley-San Francisco Local 1474.
The AFT represents non-tenured lecturers, librarians and other faculty. Tenured UC faculty are not represented by a union, though they are free to join the AFT, Squitieri said.
Both UPTE and the AFT include workers whose salaries are paid from grants, and the unions criticized Yudof’s proposal to include their salaries in the pay cuts.
“A lot of us are up in arms, because about 90 percent of our workers are working under contracts and not paid from state funds,” said Joan Lichterman, who represents UPTE members on health issues. Many of the local’s members are technicians and researchers, she said.
Lichterman said the university already takes cost of living adjustments built into grant contracts. “I don’t see how it will help the UC if they cut our pay,” she said.
American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 3299 represents about 20,000 UC workers systemwide, including cooks, bus drivers, food service employees, licensed vocational nurses and nursing assistants and medical assistants and technicians.
CUE, the Coalition of University Employees, represents the university’s clerical workers, and CUE Local 3 in Berkeley has been highly critical of the university’s call for pay cuts.
Both unions have challenged the university’s proposals.
In his June 17 letter, Yudof proposed a trio of options, all yielding an 8-percent salary reduction for those workers earning over $46,000 a year, including:
• A flat 8-percent salary cut for all employees earning more than $46,000 a year, and 4 percent for those earning less.
• A total of 21 unpaid days for those earning over $46,000, and 11 days for those earning less.
• 12 unpaid days plus a 3.4 percent pay cut for those earning more than $46,000, and 6 unpaid days and a 1.7 percent pay cut for workers paid less.
Retired UCB physicist Charles Schwartz has emerged as one of the university system’s leading financial watchdogs and has posted his extensive writings on university finances at http://socrates.berkeley.edu/~schwrtz.
In the latest of his series “Financing the University,” Schwartz contends the university could survive with an overall reduction in salaries of three percent.
“We don’t agree with everything he writes, but we are posting this on our website,” Squitieri said.
Workers represented by unions have one key advantage over other workers. As Yudof noted in his latest letter, “implementation of systemwide furloughs and/or salary reductions for represented employees is subject to collective bargaining.”