Jan. 21, 2010

The mandatory unpaid days/furlough plan is one university-wide strategy approved Oct. 29 by the state Board of Regents to help meet a $24.5 million state funding reversion. Other strategies include the partial closing of the university Dec. 24-Jan. 3 and a temporary reduction in the university's contribution to employees' TIAA-CREF retirement accounts. The board approved a second retirement incentive option program, for which most of the savings will be seen in FY11. Lastly, the board approved a $100-per-student spring semester surcharge at its Dec. 10 meeting.

Details announced for merit employees' mandatory unpaid days

by Anne Krapfl

As approved by members of the Iowa AFSCME (American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees) Council 61, AFSCME-covered merit employees will be required to take five unpaid days (not more than 40 hours) by the end of the fiscal year. An implementation plan for the mandatory unpaid days for employees at Iowa's regent schools received final state and union approval Jan. 12. However, employees could use their mandatory unpaid days as early as Dec. 1, 2009.

The unpaid days are part of a proposal, announced Nov. 9 by Gov. Chet Culver and AFSCME state leaders, designed to avoid layoffs among state employees whose positions are covered by the AFSCME contract. Culver announced Oct. 8 he would cut state spending by 10 percent in response to declining revenues. Sixty-six percent of AFSCME members participated in a vote on the proposal Nov. 19-25. Of those who voted, 59 percent approved the measure, 41 percent voted no.

How it works

Here are a few highlights of the implementation plan for regent employees whose positions are covered by the AFSCME contract. More information is available in an online FAQ (pdf).

  • Employees can take the mandatory unpaid days in hourly increments, one workday at a time or all five days consecutively.
  • Funding sources or salary levels of employees doesn't modify the five-day requirement.
  • AFSCME contract-covered employees' paychecks will be reduced for the pay period(s) the mandatory unpaid days are used.
  • Mandatory unpaid days should be scheduled and approved just like vacation days. Employees should request approval from supervisors.
  • Mandatory unpaid days will be treated as hours worked for the purpose of computing overtime in a workweek.
  • Mandatory unpaid days won't change benefits coverage, leave accrual rates or contribution rates. Employees will have to cover premium payments if their adjusted pay isn't enough to make full payment in any given month.
  • For IPERS participants, if the mandatory unpaid days reduce their final average salary, they may be eligible to make contributions to their IPERS accounts. The form to elect this option should be submitted to ISU by July 1.
  • Mandatory unpaid days may be used before or after a holiday. The AFSCME contract provision that requires merit employees to work the day before or after a university holiday to be paid for the holiday will be waived. Holidays may not be used as mandatory unpaid days.
  • Mandatory unpaid days will be prorated for permanent part-time employees. For example, an employee who works 20 hours per week would be required to take 2.5 unpaid days. For nine- 10- and 11-month employees, the mandatory unpaid days will be prorated based on their number of scheduled work hours in 2010.

The unpaid days requirement also will apply, on a prorated basis, to merit employees who retire or are newly hired between Dec. 1, 2009, and June 30. In both instances, the rule is one mandatory unpaid day for each month employed during that seven-month period, up to a total of five days.

Departments are encouraged to be flexible in granting mandatory unpaid days when employees request them, and supervisors should make sure each employee is scheduling his or her days off.

An additional agreement between Culver and AFSCME leaders, to suspend the state's contribution to employees' deferred compensation (401(k) match, not IPERS) through June 30, does not apply to employees at the regent schools.