Member Response To The Administration’s Wage Cut Proposal

Executive Summary

Member responses vary, but with recurring themes.

  • Many members are interested/willing to take some sort of a pay cut if it saves faculty jobs.
  • Many members want oversight over any recouped wages to ensure they go towards supporting the central mission of the university (and not, for instance, new contracts with third-party vendors). 
  • Members believe that the proposed starting of cuts at 40K is too low and capping the progressive structure at 200K is also too low. 
  • Many members are upset that the administration is using the contracts of the 211 faculty up for renewals as leverage to force an agreement with United Academics.
  • A couple members believe United Academics is using those same renewals as leverage to increase union power.
  • One member is very upset that the leadership of United Academics is not bringing the current proposal to a vote of the membership.
  • Most members who commented think the proposal needs to be modified/improved before they would want UA leadership to send it to the membership for a vote.

Dear Colleagues:

Thank you for the copious feedback over the last few days regarding the administration’s wage cut proposal. Please continue to share your thoughts with us. It is important to have robust communication in times of crisis. There are many ways you can engage with UA leadership and ensure that your voice is heard as we navigate these troubled times.

The feedback we have received over the past few days has been varied, but the general tenor is that faculty are angry and upset that the administration is holding 211 Career faculty contracts as leverage, and, if necessary, faculty would be willing to engage in the right pay-cut scheme to save faculty jobs—but this one is not it.

Faculty as Tools

First, we need to address the emotional upheaval around implicating the contracts of faculty who are up for renewal. Non-renewals are always painful, and any non-renewal or FTE reduction is difficult, but what the administration is doing here is more insidious. We can all agree that, for instance, the Science Library will still need librarians in the fall. There is no logical reason to issue 0.1-FTE contracts next year to all librarians in the Science Library except to use those contracts as leverage.

The administration has said that, in the absence of a wage cut plan, they will be forced to renew Career faculty at 0.1 FTE to be conservative with budgeting. We believe the administration is using employee contracts and salaries as their sole tool for budget balancing. In our conversations with the administration, we repeatedly asked them to tell us of other ways the administration planned to save money or off-set revenue losses from tuition or state cuts. They could only name the hiring freeze, wage cuts, or layoffs as their plans. We firmly believe there are many areas on campus where money can be saved or generated. We want to engage with administration on this issue, but they have been unwilling to work with us.

We have been told that, no matter what we do, even if we agree to wage cuts, the renewals for academic years beyond next (in the case of multi-year contracts) will be at 0.1 FTE.

We currently have an article on the bargaining table regarding expectation of continued employment, and we will continue to push that idea once we return to bargaining. If we can reach agreement on such a proposal, faculty cuts during difficult times would not fall on those who just happen to be up for renewal, allowing for a more intelligent approach as to how to continue in times of decreased resources.

Not the Right Pay-Cut Scheme

The second major theme we heard from members is that, while many are willing (some eager) to take pay cuts if it means saving their fellow faculty, the current plan is not progressive enough, nor does it provide sufficient oversight of how our “contributions” would be managed.

In exchange for the unnecessary emotional upheaval of more than 200 people, we were expected to agree to a pay reduction scheme that can be effectively summarized as “Give us money so we can continue to operate exactly as we have been.” The proposal is basically a recoupment of money from our pockets when less comes into university coffers from lowered enrollment or lowered state appropriations. The current scheme includes no other plans to recoup lost revenue other than salary cuts. The administration thinks they have been doing a very good job spending money and running the university, and would like to continue doing it in the same manner without faculty input.

We want assurances and guidelines so the administration doesn’t use our salaries to, for instance, lay off Composition instructors in order to hire new administrators. This is a realistic concern, as, even in a time of a strict hiring freeze, an exemption has been granted for hiring an associate dean in the School of Law.

The largest concern with the pay reduction proposal is that it is not progressive enough. There were two immediate concerns:

  • Starting wage cuts at $40,000 (the online calculator now says $30,000) is too low.
  • Wage-cut percentages should continue to increase above $200,000.

To address the first, the administration has claimed that they need to start so low so as to recoup enough money under the various scenarios. They also claimed, in all seriousness, that it was important for some of the people near the top to know that the lower-paid employees would share the burden. We think it obvious that there should be a pay-cut floor well above $40,000.

The proposal is also not progressive enough at the top of the salary range. Many people pointed out that even in the worse-case scenario, President Schill would only be taking a 25% wage cut. While this is not a small cut, he and others at the very top end could more easily absorb such a reduction than could most people earning $80,000 manage a 6% cut.

The administration told us that they were reluctant to have progressive cuts continue above $200,000 because of their fear that those employees might leave for greener pastures. We think that few employees would believe that right now is a good time to look for a new job in academia, but this argument seemed especially offensive in the context of our conversations about renewing 211 faculty at 0.1 FTE. 

What Kind of Plan Might Members Get Behind?

At this point, our leadership wants to work with the administration on a wage cut which might be progressive enough to consider in exchange for important protections.

First, we do not believe that there needs to be a dollar-to-dollar match between revenue decreases and salary cuts. While most of our operating expenses are in personnel, not all of them are. There are other ways to address revenue loss that do not involve cuts to salary. So, we would need to negotiate over the appropriate multiplier between revenue decreases and salary cuts.

The lower this multiplier, the lower the cuts to salaries, and the higher the incentive for the administration to creatively cut budgets, work with legislators, or approach donors with a sense of urgency. We believe that faculty, working with administration and other employee groups, can find savings on campus to offset the need for deep salary cuts.

So far the administration has essentially presented a linear salary decrease with a lower and higher cutoff. This cutoff-linear model has exactly two parameters: the salary at which non-zero cuts begin and the salary after which the rate of cut is constant. Given these two parameters, we can easily estimate how much the university would recoup from that linear-cutoff model. We are currently using these models so that we can make realistic proposals based on various scenarios. Suffice it to say, our proposals will have a higher cutoff on the bottom, and if there is a cutoff on the top, it will be well north of $200,000. It should be noted that since there are many low earners at UO, raising the lower cutoff requires significant increases to rates at the top end. Perhaps this is a feature and not a bug.


United Academics aims to be transparent and democratic. We communicate more frequently in times of crisis or negotiations; all of our membership communications (and additional material that does not go out via email) can be found on the Duck & Cover. You can also always reach out to us via email, phone, Facebook, Twitter, etc. if you have individual concerns.

I appreciate the engagement of everyone over the last few weeks to ensure the University of Oregon continues to serve its students. I appreciate your willingness to speak up about your situation, and how potential cuts (or failure on our part to take those cuts) would negatively impact you.

Our conversations with the administration are not over. We are constantly communicating with our administrative counterparts on ways we can move forward productively. We don’t dispute that there may be difficult financial times ahead. There will be tough decisions that will affect people unevenly, and we (both UO and UA) may be stretched to extreme measures. Please stay tuned and stay engaged.

In solidarity,

Chris Sinclair
UA President