Rutgers U. Cancels Raises and Freezes Pay, Citing ‘Extreme Fiscal Crisis’

June 11, 2010

By Charles Huckabee, from Chronicle of Higher Ed -read original here

Rutgers University announced on Thursday that it will cancel scheduled pay raises and freeze salaries across the board to deal with an “extreme fiscal crisis” brought on by state budget cuts, according to news reports.

Faculty members were scheduled to receive a 2.75-percent raise on July 1.

Adrienne Eaton, president of the Rutgers Council of AAUP Chapters-American Federation of Teachers, which represents nearly 4,500 professors, teaching assistants, part-time lecturers, and other employees, said union leaders were outraged by the university’s move.

“We entered into that [agreement] with good faith,” Ms. Eaton, a professor of labor studies and employment relations, told The Star-Ledger, a local newspaper. “They understood that this coming year was going to be worse.”

Philip Furmanski, the university’s executive vice president for academic affairs, acknowledged the concerns of the faculty union and other employee bargaining units, but he said that the university was in “a very, very difficult situation, one that is unprecedented.”

With the cumulative effect of state budget cuts, the university was facing a deficit of nearly $97-million, he told the newspaper. By freezing salaries, he said, Rutgers may be able to avoid layoffs and class cutbacks.

While the state budget for the new fiscal year is still incomplete, the plan that Gov. Christopher J. Christie sent to the Legislature this spring included a 15-percent cut in state funds to Rutgers, the university’s president, Richard L. McCormick, said in a letter to the campus in March. He said that the proposal was $46.6-million less than the university’s appropriation for the current fiscal year and that it provided no funds for salary increases that had been negotiated with employees’ bargaining units.

Mr. McCormick noted that it would “be very difficult for Rutgers to absorb these proposed reductions,” and added that “preserving the academic core of the institution” would be a priority as university leaders discussed plans for meeting the challenge.

Besides faculty members, other groups that were scheduled to receive raises this summer include administrative assistants, supervisors, and other staff members, who were expecting a 5-percent increase, campus officials said. Clerical workers, laborers, and other blue-collar workers were due to receive a 3.5-percent increase.

In canceling the pay increases, Rutgers invoked a contract provision that says the university does not have to give raises if it doesn’t have the money to cover the payroll. Union officials were planning to meet with their lawyers to discuss a legal challenge to the university’s action.