Last December the UC and the Coalition of University Employees came to an agreement concerning the effects of temporary layoffs.
Under the terms of the agreement, CUE workers will take a 4 to 6 percent pay reduction in relation to their salary. They will also be laid off for a corresponding amount of days. These layoff days will coincide with campus closure days to minimize disruptions to operations.
The agreement will affect paychecks up to February 2011 and will be subject to renegotiation.
For the university, the arrangement represents one answer to its budgetary problems. Last year the UC faced an $813 million deficit and implemented a system-wide furlough that reduced employee salaries to cut cost.
According to Peter Chester, a senior university negotiator assigned to the clerical unit, the university will save $13 million from the temporary layoffs of CUE’s 14,000 workers. Chester said the policy of layoffs resulted from the union’s resistance to the furlough program.
“The union was unwilling to agree to the furlough plan,” Chester said. “So the university announced its intention to implement temporary layoffs to achieve the same kinds of savings targeted by the furlough program.”
However CUE feels the agreement was the best option available to it, but far from an ideal plan for its members.
“We didn’t like the deal to begin with,” said Dan Lewis, the Davis bargaining representative for CUE. “We’re trying to bargain a raise for employees and the university is coming to us to lay us off and take back this money. So to some extent it makes it a bitter pill to swallow.”
Although the deal has set the terms of temporary layoffs, the overall contract between the university and the union is still being negotiated.
Also at issue is the unfair labor practice charge the union has claimed against the UC. CUE argues that the university lacks the authority to use temporary layoffs.
Chester said the university maintains the authority to use the layoffs and its implementation will reduce the impact to the affected employees.
“Because the way we’re implementing the temporary layoff, we have reduced their salaries but we haven’t reduced their paid days,” Chester said. “In order to spread the pain out over the course of an entire year as opposed to making employees go 11 straight days without pay.”
Legal experts said the temporary layoffs resemble the furloughs in their effects. They see a link to this legal challenge and how unions have contested furloughs at the state level.
“This whole situation is not what I regard as a layoff,” said Martha West, UC Davis professor of law emeritus. “The problem is there were no provisions for furloughs in anybody’s collective bargaining agreement which is why there’s so much litigation at the state level as well.”
Some university staff have said the agreement will at least allow them to plan accordingly and budget their paychecks, said Cruz Reynoso, UC Davis professor of law emeritus in an e-mail interview.
Lewis said the unfair labor practice charge will not likely make it through court to win back the salary reductions from the UC. He said the reductions will still be detrimental to workers.
“A lot of our people are living – a vast majority I suspect – are living paycheck to paycheck,” Lewis said. “If you take 4 to 6 percent out of someone’s paycheck, I guarantee they’re going to feel that.”
LESLIE TSAN can be reached at email@example.com.