University of Minnesota clerical union says salary cuts are unfair to lower paid employees

The University of Minnesota faculty voted to eat a 1.15 percent salary cut yesterday in an effort to make ends meet under Gov. Tim Pawlenty's budget cuts.

The plan is to ultimately save $28 million. University President Bob Bruininks proposed the pay cut earlier this month, and the faculty senate pushed it forward with a 130-26 vote.

But not all university faculty are on board with the cuts. Phyllis Walker, president of AFSCME Local 3800 -- the union representing university clerical workers -- says the flat cuts are unfair to the school's lower paid employees, who will be forced to take three mandatory furlough days under the plan.

"The current proposal by the administration, to furlough everyone for three days, throws the low paid faculty members at the university into economic crisis," says Walker.

For the lowest paid university employees, says Walker, "If you take three days away from them, their kids will go to school hungry."

AFSCME has countered Bruininks' plan with a proposal for a sliding-scale chopping system that would shield the lowest-paid workers from the cuts.

Here's a prepared statement from the university's news service:

These are certainly not easy decisions to make. No one likes pay cuts and furlough days, but the President put a priority on minimizing future job losses as much as possible through shared sacrifice. This plan does that in a fair and equitable way. We're please the University Senate agreed with this plan. The next steps are for this to be incorporated into the President's proposed operating budget, which he presents to the Board of Regents in May and which they'll act on in June.

Bruininks' plan also includes a 2.3 percent pay cut for high-up administrators. Bruininks said in a recent e-mail to faculty that if the senate failed to approve the cuts, he would likely make layoffs.

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