Faculty votes to cut its own wages by 10 percent

pie-chart1 In a nearly split vote, about 8,800 California Faculty Association (CFA)  members decided to cut their own wages by 10 percent this week.

The California State University (CSU) and the CFA finalized agreements Wednesday on two-day per month faculty furloughs -- non-work days without compensation --  in the vote that passed by 54 percent.

The CSU will save about half of the $584 million budget deficit through the furloughs. Of that total, Cal Poly will save approximately $16 million .

As a Cal Poly lecturer of 12 years, Sherrie Amido had to decide between the possibility of her job being cut or everyone’s salary being reduced.

“I couldn’t imagine myself standing up in front of the classroom and letting my students ask me why I couldn’t take a 10 percent pay cut, when they may have a 30 percent tuition increase,” she said.

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The alternative — retaining full faculty pay and implementing layoffs,which would likely cut a majority of lecturer positions — doesn’t comply with the CSU’s mission in Amido’s eyes.

“We still have students that we’re trying to get through the CSU system,” Amido said. “That’s what the CSU is focused on. How do we do that? We offer furloughs. Why furloughs? Because it can save classes, it can save some of these lecture jobs so that we can get students through in a timely fashion.”

But she realizes why many of her fellow faculty members planned to vote against the furlough.

“You can understand why people would be unhappy, because, guess what? We’re not paid that much to begin with,” Amido said.

History professor Lewis Call said the pay cuts will devastate his personal finances because, although he and his wife both work, it’s not enough money to sustain his family.

“Even before the furloughs, we just weren’t making it financially,” Call said. “The 10 percent pay cut will completely cripple us, and I’m sure many other faculty — especially junior faculty — are in the same boat.”

Call said that the furlough is unfair because there is an expectation for the same amount of work with less pay.

“A real furlough brings some reduction in workload, but we have not been offered any workload reduction, so it is simply a 10 percent pay cut,” Call said.

Although faculty are expected to take off two days each month, which is technically a 10 percent reduction in workload, details of where that time will come from and how it will impact class schedules is yet to be determined.

Another problem he has is that the CSU furlough cuts everyone’s pay equally instead of proportionately to their salary — like the UC’s proposed furlough plan.

The University of California furloughs range from 11 days (a 4 percent pay cut) for the lowest paid employees to 26 days (a 10 percent pay cut) for the highest-paid.

The Memorandum of Understanding issued Wednesday said the president of each CSU campus may designate specific furlough days or partial campus closure days, depending on the needs of the campus.

Faculty members are not permitted to take more than one furlough day in the same work week and all furlough days must be taken before June 30, 2010. Administrators like Vice President of Academic Affairs Bob Koob and President Warren Baker are also included in the 10 percent salary cuts.

There is also a concern that a ‘brain drain’ will make it harder to attract and keep the most qualified faculty and staff. Koob said that the economic damage will likely cause some Cal Poly employees to be drawn to other higher-paying institutions, but it won’t be a permanent loss.

“Clearly this damage will cause people to leave, but it’ll be short-sighted,” Koob said. “These economic recessions happen in cycles. We can develop more flexibility if we can deal with this one . . . and come out stronger on the other side.”

In a press release issued by Cal Poly last week, President Baker said management is “working hard to avoid layoffs, but some may be necessary.”