University of Florida Board of Trustees approves draft furlough policy

Published: Sep. 29, 2020 at 5:33 PM EDT
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) - Dealing with a lot of economic uncertainty, the University of Florida is getting closer to implementing a furlough policy.

The university’s Board of Trustees took on the discussion at their meeting Tuesday, and voted to move forward with their draft furlough policy.

The three page policy would cover faculty, sworn law enforcement and postdoctoral associate employees.

University officials said that no furloughs are planned but, “We need to consider all possibilities,” President of the University of Florida, Kent Fuchs, said during the meeting.

But people are still worried, “It is presented in a very broad terms here, so Faculty would like to make sure it is a tool that will be used only as a last resort,” Faculty Senate Chair Sylvain Doré said.

The President of the United Faculty of Florida Union (UFF-UF) Paul Ortiz also spoke during public testimony at the meeting. Ortiz sent TV20 a copy of the letter he read to board members Tuesday.

“I beg you to first consider the many alternatives that exist to going down the furlough road. I am looking for a firm commitment from the BOT and President Fuchs to use the university’s unrestricted net assets and other resources in order to buffer our campus from the types of budget cuts that will negatively impact the working lives and fragile earning power of members of our community already reeling from the global pandemic and the after-effects of the Great Recession,” Ortiz wrote.

Ultimately, the draft policy was approved Tuesday, but discussions will continue, with plans to touch on this again at the board’s next meeting.

But some union representatives still worry that not much will change.

“I would not wager that the changes they would implement, the changes they would recommend to the policy, would reflect the changes my union and faculty union and community advocacy groups want to see which is a policy that ensures, a progressive furlough policy if we get to the point where we need furloughs and by progressive I mean a policy that would ensure that those who are making the most money are furloughed first and for the longest,” Co-President of the Graduate Assistants United Union on campus, Bobby Mermer said.

According to University Officials, some employees including graduate assistants wouldn’t have to worry about potential furloughs but Mermer said that’s not something he has been informed of yet.

“We are currently in contract negotiations with the University between them and all graduate workers on campus and last months we were informed that the Administration does want to negotiate furloughs for us. Until I see something in writing I am urging my members public and in the media, to recognize that the university is planning to do this to us becasue they’ve told us,” Mermer added.

Negotiations with the different unionized groups of employees on campus must take place before the policy is officially implemented.

TV20 previously spoke with the Vice President of UFF-UF, Meera Sitharam on the furlough policy. Tuesday via email Sitharam wrote she has not seen the policy being bargained yet.

Once the policy is completed, it will be inserted into the university’s regulation resolution.

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