Everyone at USF benefits from faculty union’s arbitration victory
Late today, USF sent staff and faculty the following memo from Provost Ralph Wilcox:
As you may recall, the University of South Florida implemented a mandatory Winter Break in 2008 during a time of fiscal uncertainty and following the loss of more than 500 vacant faculty and staff positions. Given the necessity to reduce financial obligations and balance the budget, the mandatory annual leave was considered a far better option for employees than the use of furloughs and/or layoffs imposed by other universities.
USF has decided to re-credit 3 days of annual leave that were taken during the Winter Break in 2008. Any faculty member or employee, who was charged those 3 days of annual leave during the university’s mandated closing, will have the days credited back to their current leave account. This is a fair and equitable action consistent with a recent arbitration decision between USF and the United Faculty of Florida. That decision applied to in-unit faculty under 12-month contracts. However, USF’s leadership has decided that the only fair action is to extend the restoration to ALL eligible employees.
The University has engaged in communications on such challenging matters in the past. Going forward, it will be important to maintain our communication since we will not have the flexibility that we have enjoyed in the past given the difficult budget realities of today. This decision will prompt us to explore alternative strategies to balance USF’s budget in the future.
The good news, however, bears repeating. Because of the many measures USF took in 2008 to reduce costs, our budget is relatively stable today as we enter the 2009-2010 fiscal year. Our actions last year, together with the infusion of federal budget stabilization funds, have made it possible for USF to enter the next academic year without the kind of programmatic and personnel cuts that others have endured. Let us all hope that this remains the case. Both the president and I will be writing shortly to describe the strategic planning and budgeting actions that will support USF’s continued and remarkable progress.
A few personal remarks, if I may. First, the university made the right choice today, to broaden the impact of the arbitration decision so that everyone benefits. As has happened often in the past, the faculty at USF can help set a floor for other employees, and that’s a good thing both for employees and for the university’s long-term interest.
Second, I am not surprised by how the administration’s language tries to paper over the fundamental mistake it made, to try to dismiss the bargaining authority of UFF and other employee unions. This is a continuing pattern at USF, and it is not in the university’s long-term interest for upper-level administrators or the trustees to try to circumvent bargaining. For the past decade, communication between the administration and all its employees (faculty and staff) has been a consistent weakness. As I told the Tribune’s reporter, Lindsay Peterson, President Genshaft could have picked up the phone and called me any time in the past two years to discuss the financial troubles of USF and the future, and she hasn’t.