08/10/20 University Budget Update-Response to President wilson

President Wilson sent a message to the University in which he presents his view of the budget situation of the University and calls for sacrifices by those employees whose compensation is protected by collective bargaining agreements (CBAs). He argues that, “In April, we announced a temporary suspension of 2020 merit increases for non-represented employees above a certain salary level.” Additionally, he states that, “Deans and members of the cabinet will continue salary reductions of 5%, and I will continue a 10% salary reduction. Additionally, I have waived provisions in my contract that stipulate a 3% annual salary increase and consideration of a $25,000 bonus.” It is worth noting that this bonus depends on a majority vote of the Board of Governors for which he is unlikely to find support. Our response to the President can be summarized in three points:

  • Our members have been and continue to make sacrifices to meet the challenges we face together;

  • The Administration has access to other resources beyond the General Fund; and

  • It is too soon to make financial concessions

Additional points can be made:

1. Scare tactics. President Wilson is using scare tactics to put pressure on the unions representing University employees to support his plan to cut their compensation in order to bring his 2021 budget into a better balance on the backs of WSU workers. Before taking the President’s arguments at face value, it is worthwhile to take other relevant facts into consideration.

2. Why is President Wilson not addressing administrative bloat? The President’s message does not address with any effectiveness the issue of administrative bloat. The Administration has acknowledged that 37% of the General Fund Budget is devoted to salary payment to non-represented officials, while 47% is allocated to those at the University represented by unions. We do not question the utility of the work of many administrators, but President Wilson has never shown the slightest inclination to have administrative bloat addressed at any point in his tenure at the University. Instead, there has been a steady increase in the number of administrators under him. He has particularly expanded the number of senior administrators, his managerial class. He states that “Deans and members of the cabinet will continue salary reductions of 5%, and I will continue a 10% salary reduction.” It can be noted that there is no time period identified for these reductions. He is particularly obscure when it come to his own compensation. President Wilson’s contract calls for a $100,000 bonus to be paid in June 2020 and an annual $150,000 deferred payment, amounting to $750,000 over his five-year contract, all in addition to his base salary. We assume that he has collected $250,000 in his bonus and deferred payment, neither of which are part of his base salary and, one suspects, are not part of his 10% salary reduction for some unspecified period of time.

3. What is the actual WSU financial situation? The financial summary that is referenced in the President’s message is interesting in what it does not address. It focuses solely on the General Fund and the Administration’s questionable projections for the coming year for its revenues and expenses. There a number of dimensions that impinge on the financial situation of the University in the coming year that are unknown. The President has made a number of public statements that are aimed at assuring that the financial situation of the University is sound. He points to other universities with medical schools that own hospitals and have suffered huge losses in the current COVID-19 crisis. WSU does not have such a budget drain. Nor have we faced a loss due to having to deal with cancellations of dormitory rooms, as the University’s partner, Corvius, absorbs these.

4. What is the revenue situation for the coming year? The revenue figures for the coming year are still uncertain. We depend heavily on student tuition revenue and registration figures, which are holding firm at this point in comparison to the same period last year. Further, we have little idea of what the State will allocated to WSU. These uncertainties have not deterred President Wilson from demanding concessions now. This is vital information if we are to assess the demands of the Administration for give backs.

The Union is presently engaged in serious negotiations with the Administration. We have sent demands to bargain to the Administration, and while negotiations are proceeding at a slow pace, they are proceeding. There are two overlapping Union committees meeting with the Central Administration and the School of Medicine because of the separate problems each presents. We will keep you up to date as these talks continue. We will hold a Membership Meeting this coming Friday afternoon, August 14th. Union members will receive notice of this Zoom meeting shortly.

Messages from the Administration in support of the President’s position are sometimes threatening. We have been hearing that at least one Dean has been telling Chairs that the College will suffer a 10% cut if the Union does not agree to the Administration’s proposed give backs.

The entire amount of the proposed cuts in raises and furloughs, for which the President is asking for from the faculty and academic staff, is around $6.6 million. Such an amount does not come close to matching the amount involved in a 10% cut for the schools and colleges. We can expect more such “Chicken Little” messages from the WSU managerial class as we proceed.

Again we emphasize that our members have already made serious sacrifices to meet the crisis the University has faced. Further the University has assets that can help us through this temporary situation which we will spell out shortly. Also, until we know more about our financial situation, there is no reason to make any concessions to management.

President Wilson’s scare tactics in the present situation are not particularly helpful. It amounts to: “There is a crisis, you need to do what I want.” This is a naive and patronizing approach to negotiations on the part of someone who is sitting on a very fat wallet.

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Charles J. ParrishPresident, AAUP-AFT, Local 6075, WSU ChapterVice President-at-Large, AFT MichiganPresident, AAUP Michigan ConferenceMember-at-Large, National Council, AAUP5057 Woodward Avenue, Suite 3301Detroit, MI 48202313.577.1750



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