Presented to the Budget Subcommittee of the Board of Trustees and subsequently approved by the Board of Trustees at its July meeting, the Fitchburg State Fiscal ’21 budget includes a line item of 1.4 million dollars to be returned to the coffers by furloughing employees of the University. As unit representatives, we have been fielding many questions and heard many concerns about the indication that furloughs are being considered.
To date, none of the campus’s Union officers have been invited to participate in the discussion of furloughing members of our units. The unions were not given the courtesy of a heads-up before this news was revealed during the Board of Trustees budget hearing. As your representatives, we do have thoughts and concerns, the first of which are in regards to trust and transparency. Including you in the discussion, with the intent of letting our collective voice provide input into any impending bargaining for this action, is our first goal. We’d like to let you know what we – the representatives of the Unions in unison – are thinking.
Our entire workforce has participated in an unprecedented spring semester. As a group we have worked hard to ensure that students could complete their semester, that faculty had the tools to work and teach classes in a remarkably new way, that our buildings could be clean and safe for those who had to work or live in them, that the business and operations of this campus could continue without disruption, and so much more. Getting work done has been challenging and has required the “Village” to put in extra hours and effort. As Union leadership, we have heard few complaints. What we have seen is great pride in keeping the campus moving in a forward direction and preparing for whatever comes next – by doing whatever it takes to get there.
Consider these examples:
· As of the end of June, our freshman and transfer enrollment numbers are virtually the same as 2019 and higher than 2018, thanks to the hard work of our Admissions office.
· Support staff, in the throes of learning to work remotely, have successfully reconfigured scheduling for the fall semester
· Faculty and Librarians have willingly adapted to the needs of the institution in preparing for the fall semester
· Student enrollment for Intro classes in the fall semester has forced the addition of sections and classes to accommodate academic demand
· The Maintenance staff has been on site throughout the entire pandemic, assuring that campus is – and will be – safe, clean and ready for everyone to return.
What this workforce deserves is gratitude.
What this workforce does not deserve is furlough.
The recently released results of the EY-Parthenon analysis showed that Fitchburg State University was not on the list of those institutions who were found to be in the “at risk” category. At least four state sister institutions have stated that furloughs for their employees are not being considered.
This University has reserves. We need to understand what’s in the reserves and why we cannot use the money, for at least one fiscal year, to pay (basically, level-fund) employees and demonstrate the administration’s commitment to the workforce. The “rainy day” fund is there, and it is raining! The unfortunate fact is that ALL unit employees must accept that for at least one year and possibly more, our contract negotiations will not produce a salary increase. In light of the work being done and the efforts being made on behalf of the Colleges and Universities, working for the foreseeable future with no cost-of-living raises is a sufficient sacrifice.
· To that end, the Unions will ask for financial information in detail from Management
· We will ask why Union Representatives are not included in discussions about plans that significantly affect our members
· We will explain how furloughing employees will affect those who are nearing retirement and those who are already living from paycheck to paycheck.
· We will express concerns about morale in the workforce
· We will advocate for the reputation of our University and point out the impact financial exigency publicity may have on enrollment.
As you consider the implications that furloughing may have on your situation, please share them with your Union Rep. Your voice is important.
MSCA-Fitchburg Chapter President
APA Fitchburg State Chapter President
Statewide APA President