Friday, June 17, 2011

Cheng: no layoffs or furloughs next year

I finally made time to listen to the Chancellor's regular "morning conversation" gig on WSIU radio from Tuesday (6/14). The big news item was her statement that "the deans" have informed her that there will not be a need for either furloughs or layoffs next year. This even if cuts to state allocations are somewhat worse than the 1.1% in the current budget, perhaps as high as 3%. Thus the overall state budget news, and its impact on SIUC, is good, at least in comparison to last year.

Cheng did return to the issue of a "structural deficit" on campus, and said that "right sizing" the budget (a lovely corporate euphemism), together with meeting this year's cuts, would result in a reduction on campus of somewhere between 2.5% to 5%. Those cuts sound pretty steep, and I also don't fully understand what Cheng means when she talks about a structural deficit, since SIUC ran a surplus last year. My guess is that some of these cuts will mean cutting positions that are already empty--i.e., resigning ourselves to the fact that we're going to have fewer staff in some areas.

Cheng also characterized this good news as meaning that we would be able to move forward to a "better and brighter future" with "employees and programs" intact. This line, if taken literally, will come as a comfort to any worried about the sorts of large-scale program cuts that have gone on elsewhere. Apparently our "right sizing" is going to be done largely via attrition. No suggestion of an end for the hiring freeze, however, or hint of an end to the freeze on salaries.

As I suggested in response to Poshard's email announcing the better than expected state budget, this relatively good news ought to make negotiations easier. But if the administration insists on retaining the power to unilaterally declare furlough days, even if they say they won't need it next year, we'll still have are real debate on our hands. And of course there are other issues, starting, for the FA, with the status of tenure.

Three more matters after the break: the GA healthcare debate, Cheng's more general statements on negotiations, and Cheng's evaluation of her first year in office.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

GA Health Care

Folks from various IEA unions on campus protested in support of the GAU (Graduate Assistants  United) negotiating team, which is trying to secure better health insurance for GAs on campus.  The Southern has a brief story on the protest;  WPSD (channel 6) did a pretty full story on the protest which was quite good until the terribly confused last 30 seconds.  During this period they managed to misrepresent outside options available to GAs--many of whom, of course, are too old, even with the new federal age limit of 26, to enroll under their parents' plan, assuming their parents have good health insurance.  Channel 6 was also utterly confused about the status of negotiations: the GAs, like the rest of us, are negotiating for a successor contract to replace one which has expired--although in their case there have been no 'imposed terms', I believe, so their prior contract is still valid. And the university response to channel 6, that SIUC can't offer GAs the same health care it offers full time employees, is bogus; SIUC can offer the GAs whatever coverage they want, and the GAU isn't demanding equality with full-time employees: they are asking for coverage as good as that students get at peer universities.

Protesters on Tuesday, June 14
More details after the break.

Health Care Chaos

The health care situation was changing even as I started this post, causing me to delete what I already had.  The basic news is: stay tuned, as you may well need to make a decision by Friday the 17th (depending upon the status of your prior decision, which may or may not still be valid).  This is a postmark deadline, though they would prefer that you get them the relevant form via fax or hand delivery by Friday. The ultimate place to stay tuned is the CMS website.

The SIUC Human Resources people are making an admirable effort to stay on top of the situation.  You should have received the email below (after the break), but as time is pressing I'll simply paste it in.  Unfortunately, as I write this one key link on this email (that to the form one would need to make changes to one's health care!) isn't working.  But I've emailed them about this, and I'm sure they'll fix it (very likely without needing my email, which will be one of many, I assume). If you are in Carbondale, they've scheduled numerous help sessions in the auditorium of the Student Health Center (near the rec center) during the next few days.  The email comes after the break.