Sunday, April 12, 2009

UNLV-NFA response to reported 3% pay cuts for NSHE faculty and staff

This past Saturday, the Las Vegas Sun reported that the state legislative leaders and AFSCME leaders have agreed to a 3% pay cut for all state employees, to be implemented through a furlough. The story also reported that this cut would be implemented on higher education faculty.

This is far from a done deal. As the AAUP General Secretary Gary Rhodes wrote
in a recent news update, furloughs and pay cuts cannot be imposed on university faculty, even those without a collective bargaining contract, without following existing university policies or by-laws concerning fiscal exigency or notification for termination of employment.

In other words, the NFA shares the position of many advocates for Higher Ed in Nevada, including the UNLV administration and the Chancellor's office, that the NSHE code would prevent a unilateral, across-the-board pay cut imposed by the legislature.

That is not to say that there will not be a pay cut, but it is to say that the implication of story's headline was probably premature.

If and when there is a need to implement budget cuts that would involve cuts to faculty salaries and/or faculty lay-offs, the Faculty Alliance at UNLV and on all NSHE campuses will be working with Faculty Senate leaders and with System and institutional officers to ensure that policies laid out in the Board of Regents Handbook concerning the processes necessary for these drastic steps are followed fully and that any steps taken include faculty input to ensure their fairness and transparency.

In the meantime, faculty -- whether members of NFA or not -- should continue to contact legislators about the Higher Ed budget, in advance of the next hearing this coming Friday, April 17. As the NFA has advocated all year, faculty should emphasize to legislators how important it is to the competitiveness of our System that faculty compensation and benefits remain competitive with peer state institutions.

Legislative leaders understand that drastic cuts that would combine steep increases in out of pocket expenses for PEBP combined with cuts in faculty take-home pay would be unfair and would seriously compromise the competitiveness of the state in its ability to recruit and retain high-achieving faculty. They have communicated as much repeatedly. Legislative leaders have also emphasized, rightly, the need for shared sacrifice among all Nevadans, and Higher Ed faculty have and continue to do our share -- both by foregoing part of our merit pay increases last year, foregoing all merit and COLA pay increases for the coming two years, and paying higher out of pocket costs for health care in the years to come. At the same time, we are taking on higher teaching loads, larger classes and enhanced service obligations due to unfilled positions across the System.

Please remind legislative leaders of this sacrifice and ask them to keep the demonstrated commitment of faculty in mind as they close the budget in the coming weeks.

Finally, we as faculty should retain the highest degree of professional ethics and pride in our work, no matter what happens. Under no circumstances should any faculty member cede to the temptation that a pay cut would be met with less than 100% effort on behalf of our students. When we are faced with unfortunate attempts, such as the education leader quoted in the Sun story, which imply that the Higher Ed faculty salaries are too high -- which we can expect more of as the session continues -- faculty can count on the NFA to respond factually, rationally and effectively.

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