Workers deal with furloughs


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Some UI employees will be forced to take 40 unpaid hours off in the next six months in an effort to save the university roughly $2.5 million.

All merit employees — which includes technical and security staff — will be asked to take the furlough days by May 2010, said Kevin Ward, the executive associate director of UI Human Resources.

UI spokesman Tom Moore said these furlough days are arranged well in advance.

“The employees will work with the supervisor and schedule the nonworking days off just as if they were taking a vacation,” he said.

But some employees, professional and scientific staff — who make up researcher and administration positions — will be subject to a different kind of furlough, Ward said.

For these employees, furloughs mean layoffs. When funding for research like grants dry up, the researchers are given a notification period informing them when their position will be cut.

But Robert Milsap, a senior assistant director of UI Human Resources, said on Tuesday in an educational session titled “Ending the Furlough Confusion” that furloughed employees often get jobs at the UI after their position has ended.

Furloughed professional and scientific staff employees receive priority in interviewing with employers from UI departments. In some cases, departments must freeze their hiring process until they interview the prospective employee.

However, Linda Rubenstein, an associate research scientist in the College of Public Health, said in her experience, departments can be resentful when forced to interview a person who they may feel is under-qualified.

“That can delay the hiring for a new grant,” she said. “They have to start the pool again.”

But Milsap said the process has been revised over the years to make sure the furloughed employees eligible for these benefits are competent.

“We try to make sure we don’t send out employees who have an employment issue,” he said.

Still, Rubenstein said, most faculty aren’t aware of the options furloughed employees have and said she is impressed with the program.

The UI isn’t the only regent university to turn to furloughs as the state grapples with massive budget cuts.

Kate Guess, the director of public relations at the University of Northern Iowa, said both merit employees and professional and scientific employees must take three to nine furlough days before the end of June.

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