Desire to ‘help save jobs’ at center of voluntary, selective furloughing

January 19, 2011 | News, UToday
By Tobin J. Klinger

“Saving the jobs of my colleagues was the cause. Unpaid furlough days are the answer,” said Kathie George, coordinator of human resource information systems. “It just made sense.”

“Times are tough across this country, I’m not going to hesitate,” said George Hayes, journeyman electrician, who has been with The University of Toledo 18 years, when he was asked to volunteer to take four unpaid days off during the current fiscal year.

“I want to help save jobs,” added Hayes, following a Facilities and Construction divisional meeting at the Dana Center Jan. 13. Hayes’ attitude has been reflected beyond his individual actions, and already has been seen in the actions of managers and other professional staff employees across his division, as well as in the Human Resources and Campus Safety Division.

The Jan. 13 meeting served a dual purpose for Chuck Lehnert. It was an opportunity for the vice president for facilities and construction to showcase the significant progress made by the team over the last year, and help the group understand that, collectively, they have the strength to weather the current financial storm.

“If everyone participates, we will avoid layoffs,” said Lehnert, who is trying to find a way to absorb a budget reduction of $260,000 in fiscal year 2011. “I think we are lean enough. I don’t want to lay anybody off.”

Lenhert’s request for volunteers focuses exclusively on select members of the CWA union, who currently have no provision for mandatory furloughs in their contract. Members of the AFSCME union are being furloughed four days each in some areas of the University, per the contract that was ratified last year.

Thus far, CWA members and AFSCME members in the Facilities and Construction Division as well as staff in the Human Resources and Campus Safety Division have been selected to participate in the furlough program. Other areas have used other methods to absorb a 1.5 percent budget reduction that occurred last year because of a deferral of state support that arose several months into the fiscal year.

In the Human Resources and Campus Safety Division, several employees began taking furlough days before the end of 2010, with many noting in their individual out-of-office e-mail replies that the desire to “save jobs” within their area was at the heart of their decision.

“There was no question about it,” said Connie Rubin, associate vice president for human resources. “As soon as the budget reduction was announced, our team immediately gravitated toward using furloughs over reducing staff. The initiative actually took on a personality of its own. It brought our staff together, closer. We were on the same team, fighting for a common cause. It has been a positive experience, despite the fact that it financially hurts. Their commitment to one another has been simply inspiring.”

Rubin herself has taken a furlough day thus far, and plans to take another prior to the end of the fiscal year.

Doug Collins, director of facilities, maintenance and grounds, also has begun to take furlough days. “It’s a small burden for my family,” Collins said. “But it’s better to share the burden than to have to lay a person off. That’s a significant burden.”

“I couldn’t be more proud of the way our managers and other employees have responded to this situation,” said Bill Logie, vice president for human resources and campus safety. “They have demonstrated a real sense of solidarity, and I suspect their colleagues in the bargaining units will do the same. We have a significant challenge ahead, but these acts give me great optimism that we’ll find a way to push through.”

“It is this kind of attitude that will enable The University of Toledo not only to endure, but continue to excel in the face of a challenging fiscal landscape,” said President Lloyd Jacobs. “While we have put out the call for a fundamental analysis of the way we do business, selfless acts like these are indicative of our passion, tenacity and drive to fulfill our mission of improving the human condition. Clearly, many have taken that mission to heart and are acting on it with their peers in mind.”

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