Chancellor’s Update: Town Hall Follow-up and Furloughs

Dear Faculty and Staff,

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic continues to unfold as does the relentless rate of change we are experiencing as individuals, families, colleagues, and as a university. Yesterday’s extension of the state’s Safer at Home order through May 26 ensures that our lives will continue to be very different. There’s no way around it. These are historically significant times that generations have never experienced. And, none of this is easy. How we respond in this unparalleled and ambiguous time will shape how UWM emerges from this global crisis.

We talked a great deal about change at today’s town hall meeting. Thank you to all who participated and for your questions. For those who could not join us live, I encourage you to view the April 17 town hall on YouTube. And, please know that we will be holding more town halls in the future.

As we discussed, UW System developed an interim furlough policy to help address the dramatic financial toll of the COVID-19 pandemic. Yesterday afternoon, the Board of Regents executive committee approved authority for the UWS and UW-Madison, which have separate human resource policies, to implement furloughs. A furlough is an unpaid, required leave of absence, either intermittently or for a specified consecutive number of days, during which the employee remains an employee of the institution. A furlough is not a layoff. We are using furloughs instead of layoffs because it is our goal to bring employees back to their positions when normal campus operations resume, and our revenue sources are stabilized. The UW System’s interim policy document and FAQs can be found here.

The UWS interim policy includes authority to implement three types of furloughs: across-the-board, position-specific and voluntary. We will now quickly examine the details and options and will start planning for both an across-the-board furlough and position-specific furloughs. Details about voluntary furloughs will be developed later.

Across-the-Board Furloughs for all Employees

We will most likely implement a furlough plan for all employees beginning July 1, 2020 through June 30, 2021. We are currently looking at eight furlough days for 12-month employees, with six furlough days for 9-month employees. We will also be requiring a higher number of furlough days for higher-income, 12-month employees.

Position-Specific Furloughs

This type of furlough would be applied to certain positions and it is likely that employees would be placed on furloughs in several stages. Some employees could be placed on position-specific furloughs as early as May 2, which is when COVID-19 leave expires. Areas to be examined for position-specific furloughs will initially include employees whose work cannot be performed remotely and who are designated as essential to current onsite operations, as well as employees in units most impacted by our immediate financial losses. Position-specific furloughs do not apply to faculty.

It is important to note that we are moving quickly to address the many details involved in implementing the UWS interim furlough policy. We know this is difficult and that you have many questions. In the coming days, we will have more concrete answers including UWM-specific FAQs and will share that information with you as soon as it is available. In the meantime, I encourage you to review the UW System FAQs, which provide significant details, and to communicate directly with your supervisors about individual situations and circumstances.

It is extremely unfortunate that we need to implement furloughs and I understand you have many concerns. There is support available for those who need it through our employee assistance program.

You have heard me say many times before that we are a university that cares for one another. We can weather this storm together by doing what we know how to do best – lifting up and supporting each other. We are Panthers and we are resilient.

Best regards,

Mark A. Mone
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee