More furloughs asked of universities

More than 200,000 state workers are facing a third monthly furlough day because of the ongoing state budget discussions.

About 860 University of California at Merced employees might have to take furloughs starting in August. And now, state officials want workers at California State University, Stanislaus, and its other 22 campuses to take furloughs, too.

The CSU system wants to trim its annual spending by $584 million. University officials say they could save $275 million by furloughing all employees two days a month for one year. That would amount to a 10 percent pay cut for CSU workers.

Two of the university's labor unions have agreed to discuss furloughs. One represents 16,000 nonacademic employees, such as custodians, nurses and lab assistants; the other represents 2,400 student services employees, such as financial aid advisers and job placement counselors.

But the largest CSU labor union,the one that represents 23,000 professors, librarians and coaches, hasn't agreed to take a furlough.

"People are prepared to make a sacrifice, but they want to make a sacrifice that's going to mean something," said Lillian Taiz, president of the California Faculty Association and a professor of history at CSU, Los Angeles.

Without furloughs, officials say they will turn to layoffs. But they're not saying how many jobs could be lost with furloughs or without them.

"If they would tell us things like how many people do you think aren't going to get laid off because of this, I think the vast majority ... would go along with it," said CSU, Stanislaus, accounting professor Steven Filling.

Another issue concerns workload. Filling said university leaders haven't indicated how a furlough would reduce the amount of work expected of professors.

"I think the notion is we're going to call it a furlough, but we're pretty sure all these folks are so committed to what they're doing that they'll keep doing it anyway," Filling said.

Furloughs sound like a decent option to members of the CSU Employees Union, which represents nonacademic employees.

"With the budget so bad, we would definitely want to furlough rather than have massive layoffs," said Frank Borrelli, president of the union's Stanislaus chapter. "Really, there's no choice."

CSU trustees meet today in Long Beach to discuss the furlough proposal and other budget matters. They are expected to vote on a plan July 21.

Bee staff writer Merrill Balassone contributed to this report.