State campuses in Milwaukee and Madison unveiled more information on their plans to furlough employees this week, with the aim of mitigating the mounting financial fallout from the coronavirus outbreak.
University of Wisconsin-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank said in a letter to employees Wednesday that the campus will implement a “graduated, progressive program” of furloughs starting May 15 and going through Oct. 31.
The furloughs will be between three and six days over the six-month period, depending on how much employees earn. Those who earn more will take more days.
That range will vary for some employees, and other groups — such as student employees — are exempt.
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UW-Milwaukee, meanwhile, unveiled more on its furlough plan Tuesday. Most of UWM’s workforce of more than 3,700 will end up taking around six to eight unpaid days off before June 30, 2021.
However, employees who cannot work remotely face up to four months without work, as do those who can work remotely but are determined to be “performing duties and responsibilities that are not mission critical at the present time.”
UWM said Tuesday it had identified 267 employees who are unable to work from home. Of those, 30 are partial furloughs. The rest are furloughed from May 2 to Aug. 31. The number of employees who are deemed “not mission critical” will be determined by May 9.
The two universities, the largest in the state system, join others across the state taking such action. Campuses in Green Bay, Stevens Point and Oshkosh announced furloughs of hundreds of employees in recent weeks.
At the administrative level, the UW System announced across-the-board furloughs for its nearly 600 employees, one day per month through June 2021. The Wisconsin State Journal reported that will save about $3 million.
Meanwhile, employees at private universities are losing pay.
Marquette University furloughed some 250 of its 2,930 employees indefinitely beginning April 17, citing a $15 million short-term financial shortfall due to th coronavirus. Lawrence University in Appleton said last week it would furlough an unspecified number of staff, citing a $2 million-plus loss.
Many campus leadership teams took pay cuts of their own. UWM Chancellor Mark Mone said he and his cabinet would take a pay cut, though an amount hasn’t been announced yet. Chancellors and cabinets at UW-Madison and UW-Oshkosh are taking 15% cuts.
Time will tell if the cuts will be enough, as the outbreak continues to take its toll on the economy. On Wednesday, Gov. Tony Evers announced a 5% state spending cut due to the outbreak.
Statewide, the UW System employs 39,000 people. The system released numbers on the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic, much of which comes down to the $78 million cost of refunding room and board to students who hastily left campus in March.
The system estimated the cost of the outbreak and lost revenue was, conservatively, $168 million as of April 10.
About $100 million of that estimate comes from UW-Madison alone. Blank said Wednesday the overall plan for employees — which includes furloughs, leadership pay cuts, a potential work-share program and other potential position-specific furloughs — would save up to $30 million.
Blank said she does not anticipate further cuts before the fall, but acknowledged there was plenty of uncertainty in what the future would hold.
“Although we’re planning for any number of scenarios, none of us knows exactly how we’ll be operating this fall, or the condition of the state’s budget headed into the next biennium,” she said. “Both of these factors could significantly deepen our financial problems and may require further expense reductions that could be considered as early as this fall.”
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