Members and supporters of the union that represents classified employees at the University held an on-campus rally Thursday outside of Knight Library, protesting the contract proposed by the Oregon University System for the coming year.
The OUS has frozen promotions and raises for University service employees and will require them to take 24 furlough days each at a day’s notice. That means employees could be told to go home without warning if business is slow, according to a Service Employees International Union grievance.
The OUS has included furlough days and promotion holds in the employees’ contracts as a money-saving strategy to offset state funding cuts it is facing. The 2009-11 state appropriated budget for the OUS is $807.5 million, a decrease of 13 percent from the amount needed to maintain current services as determined by the state Department of Administrative Services. OUS officials estimate the cuts will require salary reductions of approximately 3 to 5 percent for all employees, to help make up for the lack of state funding for OUS faculty and staff salaries.
“The cost of living is continuously increasing,” Johnny Earl, a facilities worker and vice president of the University’s SEIU local, said at Thursday’s protest. “Implementing furlough days at will would make it impossible for a family to get by.”
The SEIU has about 1,400 classified employees at the University, including groundskeepers, custodians, cooks, office specialists, public safety officers, nurses, library technicians and other employees not in faculty or administration.
Their rebuttal to the contract changes was also sparked by the imbalanced inclusion of all seven OUS institutions in the negotiation. Earl said the University of Oregon is currently the most financially successful of all the OUS schools, but is being unfairly treated alongside the other less flourishing state universities.
Ryan Hagemann, legal counsel for OUS, said it cannot speak about the issue before reviewing statutory obligations, but is amid a bargaining process with the SEIU.