Post Classifieds

Senate avoiding layoffs

By Amanda Falcone
On February 11, 2003

A preliminary agreement that will save UConn an estimated $11.6 million was presented to the University Senate at their meeting Monday.

The agreement was generated to address UConn's financial difficulties.

If approved, there will a one-year freeze on AAUP bargaining unit salaries, UConn AAUP executive director Ed Marth said.

According to a press release from the university, the agreement, which was formulated by UConn's chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) and the university, must be approved by the membership of AAUP's bargaining unit. The bargaining unit includes the University Board of Trustees and the Connecticut General Assembly.

According to the press release the AAUP bargains for approximately 1,400 faculty, research professionals and coaches at Storrs and UConn's regional campuses.

Marth said the agreement would eliminate the contractual increase scheduled for fiscal year 2004. He also said the agreement would extend the contract term to fiscal year 2007, an extension of one year.

"We are still awaiting budgetary word," Chancellor John Petersen said in the President's report.

Marth said state financial negotiations began in November and have continued. He said a quick agreement is not possible.

"[The negotiations] got off to a very bad start, and [the negotiations] continue to be bad," Marth said. "Conditions [in Connecticut] really seemed to deteriorate-really spiraled. [Connecticut] can't get a coalition together, in either the House or the Senate, to approve a budget that makes much sense."

The press release stated savings in fiscal year 2004 are estimated to total $11.6 million. It also stated the amount of the total savings was reached by adding salary and fringe benefit savings. In addition to those savings, the predicted savings from the early retirement program are used to reach the total. The estimated salary and fringe benefit savings are $7.9 million. This amount includes an estimated savings of the Storrs-based programs due to a freeze on non-unionized employees. Savings from the early retirement program are estimated to be $3.7 million.

Both Marth and Petersen said the university is trying to avoid layoffs. Marth said when the university resorts to laying off employees, the situation will get worse.

When the university needs to layoff employees, the first to go will be graduate students and teachers' assistants, said Sen. John DeWolf of the civil and environmental engineering department. He said the effects of a tight budget would be harder on the younger faculty.

"We have good people working on this," Marth said. "Dynamics sometimes do not work toward resolution. There needs to be a change in dynamics, which has been impossible to date."

UConn President Philip E. Austin sent an e-mail to the university community explaining the proposed agreement and offering his appreciation to Marth and the executive board of the AAUP.

"[The proposed agreement] will, in short, help us maintain our commitment to excellence in teaching, research and service through an especially challenging period," the e-mail stated.

Sen. Ryan Kehoe, Undergraduate Student Government academic affairs vice-chair, said the university is doing the right thing in this situation.

"I think they did the best thing for the students, by saving faculty jobs," Kehoe said.

According to Sen. Robert Miller, head of the music department, UConn went through a similar budget crisis in 1991. He said sacrifices should be made for the benefit of the university.

"It is kind of a no-brainer to keep things running-keep it functioning," Miller said. "It is the kind of maturity you would expect from faculty."

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