Universities work out details of employee furloughs

December 24, 2008|By Stephen Kiehl | Stephen Kiehl,stephen.kiehl@baltsun.com

State universities are finalizing plans this week to furlough thousands of employees, trying to minimize the impact on students while cutting $16 million in salary costs from the budget.

The University of Maryland, College Park said no classes will be canceled as a result of the furlough of nearly 7,000 employees on its campus. Employees making $30,000 and above will take from one to five days, with the highest-paid workers taking the most days. Those earning less than $30,000, as well as graduate students and student employees, are exempt.

"[A]n important quality of our campus, one that has always inspired me, has been the way it comes together as a community to take on challenges of all kinds," said UM President C.D. "Dan" Mote Jr., who will take six furlough days, in an e-mail to the campus. "This is another one of those coming-together periods."

Gov. Martin O'Malley ordered cuts as part of efforts to address the state's budget deficit in the face of a recession. The state university system has about 22,500 full-time employees.

At the University of Maryland, at least, public safety employees will be included in the furloughs. But campus police forces have minimum-force guidelines that will not be compromised, officials said.

University researchers whose salary is paid in part by grants will also be furloughed. The money saved will be returned to the pool of grant money, meaning that it can be used for other things.

"It's a matter of community solidarity," said Tom Henderson, executive director of UM's grant-funded Capital Wireless Information Net, which connects first- responders in Maryland, Virginia and Washington. "We couldn't expect to be exempted when everyone else is pinched."

The universities worked out the furlough plans in consultation with unions representing employees and the Fraternal Order of Police.

The Maryland president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Patrick Moran, said in a statement, "During this round of collective bargaining with the state, AFSCME MD worked diligently to ensure higher education employees suffer the lowest possible impact as a result of the furlough plan. We were successful in agreeing on equitable, progressive solutions designed to lessen the burden on workers earning the lowest wages."

The furlough plans for all state universities were not available yesterday because not all have been approved. But at the University of Maryland, College Park and in the system office, employees earning $30,000 to $49,999 will take one furlough day, $50,000 to $64,999, two; $65,000 to $79,999, three; $80,000 to $89,999, four; and $90,000 or more, five. Furloughs at UM can be taken as full- or half-days and spread out but must occur by June.

The University of Maryland, Baltimore County is scheduling furlough days during spring break and after the spring semester so students are not affected. Graduate assistants, student employees and workers with 100 percent grant-funded salaries will be exempt. Those making less than $40,000 will take one day; $40,000 to $59,000, three; $60,000 to $79,999, four; and $80,000 or more, five.

UMBC President Freeman A. Hrabowski III, system Chancellor William E. Kirwan and the vice chancellors will each take six days.

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