Cost-cutting layoffs target maintenance employees

By Collin Eaton

Daily Texan, U. Texas via UWIRE

A director of the Human Resource Service Center said Wednesday that U. Texas laid off approximately 273 full-time employee positions because of budgetary reasons from September to June.

On Tuesday, the University announced the layoffs of 17 maintenance and service employees from Campus Planning and Facilities Maintenance as part of a budget realignment plan that also cut 63 funded, vacant positions.

“[The number of layoffs represents] filled positions, though the 273 is comprised of part-time folks as well,” said Debra Kress, director of Employee and Management Services at the Human Resource Service Center. “It just all adds up to 273 full-time employees.”

The budget realignment plan for Campus Planning and Facilities Maintenance that included the 17 layoffs will be put into effect Sept. 19. It was implemented because of a directive fromstate leadership requesting that all state agencies reduce their budgets by 5 to 8 percent. One-time merit-pay increases effective in November were also considered in the budget realignment, according to a report sent to CPFM staff.

“The Staff Council is very concerned any time members of our staff are laid off,” Staff Council Vice Chair Joe Gregory said. “We hope that the administration will continue to diligently seek cost-cutting measures that will avoid staff layoffs within the University in the future. We hope that these affected staff members are considered first for employment within the University. Our thoughts go out to everyone who is affected by these layoffs.”

Kevin Hegarty, UT’s chief financial officer, said salary policy instructions for the 2010-2011 fiscal year were issued July 7, but many administrators may not have plans yet for the merit-pay increases because they are one-time only and due in November instead of September.

“Traditionally, if we were going to [implement] regular salary merit increases, we would have been working on them long before now because those would have been effective Sept. 1,” Hegarty said. “But [because the merit-pay increases are one-time only and are due] in November, I doubt many people are working on a by-person allocation of how they’ll actually spend that money.”

UT President William Powers Jr. announced the merit raises in his State of the University address Sept. 16, citing exacerbated salary compression and inequities in hiring and retaining faculty.

According to Powers’ salary policy instructions for merit-pay increases, all categories of employees — including teaching assistants, assistant instructors and graduate research assistants — are eligible for the merit-pay increases. The administration will not impose a limit to the “level of increase” an employee earns in the one-time pay increase or require “justification” for not increasing an employee’s salary. Deans and vice presidents are eligible for the increase, but Powers and Provost Steven Leslie will make those determinations.

The instructions go on to say, “Merit increases for research personnel paid 100 percent from contract and grant accounts (26 accounts) must be given on a permanent basis, effective Sept. 1.” Also, private research grant and state research grant accounts will be more flexible in terms of increases, which may be larger than 2 or 3 percent.

Also, all one-time merit-pay increases are subject to tax withholdings — at a flat rate of 25 percent — and retirement deductions.

Andrew Dillon, dean of the School of Information, said the school is paying for the merit-pay increases with the retirement of a faculty member and a hiring freeze on a replacement for that position.

Larry Sager, dean of the School of Law, said plans for how to fund and allocate the merit-pay increases are currently being worked on.

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Copyright 2014 Daily Texan

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