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UArizona moves forward with furloughs despite push back from faculty, staff

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TUCSON (KVOA) - University of Arizona President Robert Robbins announced Friday that the school will move forward with its furlough plan ahead of the 2020-2021 school year.

Back in April, Robbins informed the UArizona community that the university plans to implement furloughs and pay cuts to its 15,000 employees that are set to last through June 2021.

After several UArizona faculty and staff shared their concerns about the plan, Robbins shared that the college would delay the implemenation of the furloughs in early July.

However on Friday, UArizona shared that it will begin its furlough program on Monday, 15 days before the start of the school year.

"Given these timing constraints, our responsibility to begin addressing our revenue shortfall, and the desire to preserve as many student, staff and faculty jobs as possible, I have decided to move forward with the proposed furlough and furlough-based salary programs, to begin on Aug. 10," Robbins said in a letter to UArizona staff. "This will allow employees who planned to take their furlough days or personal flex time before the start of the new academic year to move forward with those plans."

According to UArizona's website, the furlough and furlough-based salary programs will be in effect from Monday, Aug. 10 through Aug. 8, 2021.

Under these programs, nearly every UArizona employee making more than $44,500 will be furloughed.

"I want to again acknowledge that these programs will pose significant hardships for you and your families, and I thank you for your continued commitment to the University. I value all of you tremendously," Robbins said. "I know these programs have caused some divisions on our campus, and I am hopeful that we can work together collaboratively, productively and respectfully moving forward."

The programs will be implemented for employees paid over the 9-month academic year until May 23.

Employees enrolled in the Sept. 21 Plan Option will follow, with their furloughs expected to expire June 30.

Fiscal year university staff and classified staff, and employees with fiscal contracts will be placed under the furlough programs through Aug. 8, 2021.

Employees who do not have time funded by sponsored awards will be placed under furlough-based salary programs.

Those individuals will be "will have a reduction in their salary in addition to receiving a balance of paid Personal Flex Time."

Those salaries will be determined by the table below.

Under the furlough program, UArizona staff who have time funded by sponsored awards will have required furlough days "proportionate to the FTE (hours) distributed to sponsored accounts."

UArizona is projected to start its 2020 fall semester on Aug. 26.

For more information, visit hr.arizona.edu.

Robbin's letter in its entirety is listed below.

Dear Colleagues,

Over the past several months, as part of our commitment to shared governance and transparency, my team and I have consulted with numerous stakeholders across campus as we have explored every avenue to finance the mission of our incredible institution through the pandemic crisis. In particular, the General Faculty Financial Advisory Committee (GFFAC) today submitted a report proposing borrowing and line of credit options. Such efforts and recommendations are greatly appreciated, and I am listening.  

The options being proposed by GFFAC are complex, and the depth of our financial crisis requires thoughtful exploration of multiple approaches. We are continuing to work with our counterparts at Arizona State University and Northern Arizona University, as well as with the Arizona Board of Regents, to seek state legislation to be able to borrow money for operating expenses once the legislature is back in session. We also are willing to pursue a line of credit, although this action requires ABOR review and approval. Additionally, the federal government is considering another federal stimulus bill with funding for higher education, but we cannot predict if it will be approved.  

Given these timing constraints, our responsibility to begin addressing our revenue shortfall, and the desire to preserve as many student, staff and faculty jobs as possible, I have decided to move forward with the proposed furlough and furlough-based salary programs, to begin on Aug. 10. This will allow employees who planned to take their furlough days or personal flex time before the start of the new academic year to move forward with those plans. Once we obtain more information about our borrowing and line of credit options, such as those proposed by GFFAC; determine whether the federal stimulus bill will be approved; and have an opportunity to review fall census data, we will make adjustments to the program accordingly in early October. We will explore additional adjustments in March 2021. Our shared governance bodies, including the Strategic Planning and Budget Advisory Committee and GFFAC, will be included in developing plans for these adjustments.

I want to again acknowledge that these programs will pose significant hardships for you and your families, and I thank you for your continued commitment to the University. I value all of you tremendously. I know these programs have caused some divisions on our campus, and I am hopeful that we can work together collaboratively, productively and respectfully moving forward.

The furlough and furlough-based salary programs are just one facet of our still-evolving, comprehensive mitigation plan. As you will see in the one-page summary, there are multiple sources of current and potential mitigation. The challenges we must meet are in constant flux, and we will continue to consider opportunities to adjust, innovate and offset our projected losses.

This is a continuing conversation. Together, we will work toward the common goal of achieving our long-term educational, research and land-grant missions.Bear Down and Mask Up,

Robert C. Robbins, M.D.

President
The University of Arizona

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Anthony Victor Reyes

Anthony Victor Reyes is the lead digital content producer at News 4 Tucson. The award-winning journalist previously worked as a community reporter in Jasper County, Iowa.

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