UMass furloughing 850 workers, with more to come

  • A University of Massachusetts Amherst staffer works inside the closed Berkshire Dining Commons in the Southwest Residential Area on Thursday, Aug. 27, 2020. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • A custodian works Thursday in the Berkshire Dining Commons in the Southwest Residential Area of UMass Amherst. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • A student walks through the Commonwealth Honors College Residential Area at UMass on Thursday. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Washington Tower at the Southwest Residential Area of the University of Massachusetts Amherst is reflected on the plaza outside the closed Berkshire Dining Commons, right, on Thursday, Aug. 27, 2020. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • A student walks through the Commonwealth Honors College Residential Area at the University of Massachusetts Amherst on Thursday, Aug. 27, 2020. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • A possibly abandoned bike, with two flat tires, is locked to a rack across from the closed Berkshire Dining Commons, right, in the Southwest Residential Area of the University of Massachusetts Amherst on Thursday, Aug. 27, 2020. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

Staff Writer
Published: 8/27/2020 7:12:47 PM

AMHERST — The University of Massachusetts Amherst announced Thursday that it will furlough 850 employees next month, with permanent layoffs anticipated in the coming weeks.

The university announced the furloughs in response to a projected $168.6 million budget hit, which UMass Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy described as “one of the greatest challenges to our 157-year history”  in a letter addressed to the campus community.

The furloughs include dining hall employees and residence hall operations staff, according to Subbaswamy, and will go into effect Sept. 13. The decision was reached after negotiations with the UMass chapter of  the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME).

About 450 additional employees will likely be impacted by furloughs and reduced hours in an attempt to minimize permanent layoffs in the coming weeks, according to Subbaswamy.

In a statement posted to AFSCME Local 1776’s Facebook page, president LeeAnn Robinson said that the union was “forced into accepting furloughs.”

“We were told that if we did not accept ‘temporary’ furloughs our members would be laid off and lose all benefits,” Robinson wrote. Furloughed employees will retain health care and other benefits while also being eligible for unemployment benefits.

Of the furloughed employees, 780 are AFSCME members.

Robinson said the union recognizes that the university is facing a financial crisis, but said UMass officials “refused to consider anything other than furloughing people” despite efforts by all UMass unions to negotiate other cost-saving measures.

“This is happening even though the Commonwealth and the UMass system are both sitting on mountains of cash but have refused to touch any of this money to alleviate the financial crisis and instead place the burden on its lowest paid, most vulnerable employees,” Robinson wrote.

The university’s financial losses include a $67.4 million reduction in housing and dining revenue; a projected $30.6 million reduction in tuition revenue; and a $20.9 million reduction in other revenues such as grant and contract overhead income, according to Subbaswamy.

Additionally, the university is budgeting for a 10% reduction to its state appropriations and other losses related to pandemic measures, as well as additional expenses of $13 million to implement testing and other safety requirements.

The university identified $120.8 million in savings through measures such as a hiring freeze affecting around 250 positions and a voluntary separation incentive, or early retirement program affecting approximately 250 additional positions, as well as cuts in discretionary spending and pay cuts for campus leaders.

But “as we continue to look for additional cost savings and efficiencies in every area of our operations,” Subbaswamy wrote, “we have reached the inescapable conclusion that the only way to address such a substantial deficit is through workforce reductions, beginning with those job functions that cannot be performed remotely and for which there is no work due to the minimal number of students residing on campus.”




Daily Hampshire Gazette Office

115 Conz Street
Northampton, MA 01061
413-584-5000

 

Copyright © 2021 by H.S. Gere & Sons, Inc.
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy