News Local/State

U Of I Memo Makes Plans For Possible Layoffs

In this Nov. 20, 2015 photo, University of Illinois students walk across the Main Quad on campus in Urbana.

In this Nov. 20, 2015 photo, University of Illinois students walk across the Main Quad on campus in Urbana. David Mercer/Associated Press

The University of Illinois’ Urbana campus is making plans for possible layoffs, as a result of the budget stalemate.  In a memo obtained by Illinois Public Media, Associate Provost for Human Resources Elyne Cole indicates that some jobs, including some in Civil Service, could be cut, effective at the start of the fall semester.

"In order to address the situation we're in - and to reduce the number of affected employees and the impact on their home units - we are implementing a position elimination period," Cole said in the e-mail.  "A position elimination period puts selected controls on hiring activity so that we can better manage a bumping activity and match employees whose positions are being eliminated to current opportunities on the campus."

AFSCME Local 3700 President Ann Zettervall, which represents 1,300 civil service workers, says she’s seen the memo, which was sent Monday to some campus personnel, including some who are covered by union contracts.

She says she’s just getting the word out to her members, who are mostly clerical employees, but also include some in the U of I's Extension Service, and those at the U of I's Child Development Lab. 

“People are really scared," Zettervall said.  "We’ve reached out to staff Human Resources, particularly asking why we weren’t informed of this.   We have an agreement where they let us know about layoffs and we weren’t informed of this plan at all.  So we’re working with them to try to get more information, but at this point, we don’t have a lot.”

Zettervall says Civil Service hiring and testing has been suspended during that period. That’s to minimize the disruption caused when Civil Service workers whose jobs are cut are allowed by seniority rules to take jobs from other Civil Service workers, who are then “bumped” into other positions.

U of I spokeswoman Robin Kaler says as units try to address budget challenges, the U of I is trying to coordinate and mitigate the impact.

"With Civil Service employees, since they have bumping rights, if we can get a handle on who all is looking at eliminating positions, we can do it all at once, and see who might have opening positions that they need to fill, and that sort of thing," she said.

Zettervall says the U of I would not discuss other unions that are affected by the upcoming potential job cuts.  But she thinks the memo making the announcement was timed, so it would be “overshadowed” by the 2-day strike by Urbana campus non-tenure track faculty, which ended Wednesday night.

"We would wish that communication would not be so clearly done to avoid drawing attention to it, when it's such a major issue, and it's a statewide issue," she said. 

Kaler says the timing of the memo was a mere coincidence, and said it was only sent out on Monday to department heads who have to decide if any layoffs will occur.  She said once the campus got a handle on that figure, that e-mail would be shared more broadly.

Meanwhile, a union head representing building and food service workers on campus has yet to learn about potential layoffs within his membership. 

Ricky Baldwin with SEIU Local 73 hopes to talk with his chief negotiator Thursday on how the union could be impacted. But he says layoffs in an area that hasn’t made a hire in more than two years is the wrong place to cut jobs.

“The administration has been growing, administrative salaries have been growing for the last 10 years or so, really dramatically," he said.  "So there are places they can cut. They don’t have to cut the people that are doing the basic day-to-day functions of the university, certainly not involving sanitation.”

Zettervall says she's not aware of such a memo being sent out at the U of I's Springfield or Chicago campuses.

WILL is part of the U of I’s College of Media. Its employees work for the University of Illinois.