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University of Minnesota freezes pay for non-union staff

By staff |
April 10, 2020
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Minneapolis, MN - The University of Minnesota held a special Board of Regents meeting on April 7 in which they discussed their plans to respond to budget impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Exact details were not laid out and some things remained uncertain as the exact impact of the pandemic is not fully known yet. The regents did announce some initial plans around where the impacts would land from their reduced revenue.

University President Joan Gabel announced a largely symbolic pay cut to her own salary. Gabel recently took over as U president and signed a five-year $3.2 million contract. Her current salary is $640,000 per year. She announced that she will forgo 10% of her salary during the pandemic. 10% of one year of salary for President Gabel is $64,000 dollars which would still leave her with a $576,000 salary if she takes that reduction for an entire year.

One measure that the regents and president are taking to balance their books is that frontline workers who are non-union will see a pay freeze go into effect, with no raises or bonuses. Departments will also be asked to look at ways to cut spending. In the past that has typically resulted in staff being cut on a departmental level by supervisors and workloads increased for the remaining workers. How they will handle it this year is yet to be seen.

Clerical, technical and healthcare workers at the University are represented by AFSCME and service and maintenance workers are Teamsters. Because they are union members, these workers have legal protections as well as a strong organized voice which the non-union workers do not have. Union members at the university will receive their legally negotiated contract raises and lump sums on their scheduled dates. The university cannot change the terms of a union contract unilaterally.

The union members have protections and a grievance process to ensure that systems for working from home, proper full pay and fair and safe working conditions are in place throughout the pandemic. Additionally, the union members who are in positions deemed essential and who must go to work in person will receive hazard pay for all hours worked in person.

Interest in joining or forming unions has risen sharply during the pandemic and appears likely to continue to rise.