In response to financial pressures from the COVID-19 pandemic, the University of Massachusetts announced plans to furlough some staff and implement a voluntary separation incentive program. The decision comes after a discussion between the University and three major bargaining units: The American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees; the Professional Staff Union; and University Staff Association/ Massachusetts Teachers Association.
In an FAQ, the University stated that impacted employees will participate in a five-day unpaid furlough. These five days will be consecutive and take place at some point between May 31 and June 20.
The University also stated that all benefited AFSCME, USA and PSU employees will be required to participate in the furlough, as well as “non-unit employees without an underlying faculty appointment, except those more than 25% grant funded and/or those working under an authorized visa.” A non-unit employee is an employee who is not governed by a bargaining unit contract. If an employee is grant funded for 25 percent or less of their appointment, they “shall serve the furlough for the non-grant funded portion of their work week.”
Supervisors are in charge of determining when each employee’s furlough will take place, although they will try to make accommodations for the employee’s preferred week. Furloughed employees are not allowed to perform any work for the University: “an employee who is furloughed Monday through Friday should not complete any work for the university until their next scheduled work day the following week,” according to the FAQ. They also cannot use personal time or vacation time during their furlough. Furloughs will not affect employee’s benefits.
In most cases, furloughed employees will be able to collect unemployment to help with their financial needs.
In addition to furloughing employees, the University has taken other measures to respond to the financial challenges it is facing. These measures include implementing a hiring freeze for non-academic staff, reducing non-essential spending for the rest of the fiscal year and instituting voluntary pay cuts through FY 21 for senior administration officials.
“We recognize that the university will face difficult decisions that will be painful to the campus community,” reads the FAQ. “In the face of these challenges, we are committed to supporting each other to meet the needs of the UMass Amherst community in the least disruptive manner possible.”
Sophia Gardner can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @sophieegardnerr.