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UNI AFSCME employees vote to take layoffs <br>

October 8, 2002

Tom Schellhardt, vice president for administration & finance, (319) 273-2382
James O'Connor, University Marketing & Public Relations, (319) 273-2761

CEDAR FALLS, Iowa -- Yesterday, AFSCME Local 2659, which represents most Merit employees at the University of Northern Iowa, voted to have 27 Merit employees at the university laid off permanently.

This was one of two options put before the union membership to help the university manage the $1.9 million reduction in state budget appropriations that came out of the special legislative session in May. The other was to have Merit employees take 11.5 days of unpaid leave between now and the end of June.

These options were the result of negotiations between the Iowa Department of Personnel and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME). From the university's perspective, layoffs were the last resort.

UNI has experienced almost $17 million in budget cuts in two years. Every major budget unit was affected. The university has taken steps to reduce the impact of permanent layoffs by not filling vacancies and by eliminating temporary positions.

In July, UNI's faculty union, United Faculty, voted to delay its negotiated salary increase until Nov. 1. UNI's academic administrators, professional and scientific staff, and others who are not subject to collective bargaining, also agreed to delay their increases. The remaining employee group was Merit employees, consisting of AFSCME and supervisory and confidential staff.

While many UNI Merit employees were willing to delay their negotiated wage increases, or elect to take leave without pay, the majority of the AFSCME employees who voted yesterday determined the final outcome.

'As with all our previous budget cuts, the idea behind both proposed approaches was to preserve quality within the university's core mission of teaching students,' said UNI President Robert Koob. More permanent layoffs may still have to be considered during this fiscal year.

'We are deeply saddened by the need for this action,' said Koob. 'The layoff plan will be sent to the Iowa Department of Personnel for approval. If approved, affected employees will be notified in person by their supervisor and a representative from Human Resource Services to discuss options. Based on seniority, 'bumping' will be an option in some cases. We will do everything we can to assist everyone affected.'