Public colleges and universities in Illinois will have the option of reducing payroll costs in the form of furloughs on employees, under a rule approved Tuesday.
Jeff Brownfield, director of an organization representing civil service employees, fielded questions from a trio of lawmakers all asking the same thing: What about the labor unions? After the meeting, Brownfield repeated his answer.
"If a campus chooses to institute a furlough program, they would need to go to union X, Y or Z and provide a proposal of some kind. The union then obviously can counter-offer, just a regular negotiation of whether there's going to be a furlough program,” Brownfield said.
Brownfield says about 60 percent of university employees have union representation.
The furlough plan was requested by schools struggling to avoid layoffs in the midst of the ongoing budget impasse. Institutions of higher education have received only a fraction of their usual state aid.
Meanwhile, Northern Illinois University's finance director says furloughs are not expected at the school in the near future. Alan Phillips is the Vice President for Administration and Finance.
He says the school has been staying afloat in the short term, but adds current funding levels are not sustainable.
"We've been fairly successful over the last couple of years managing through attrition, which is obviously the preferable route. But furloughs are not something that we're actively discussing at this time," Phillips said.
Phillips says if the school were to implement furlough days, they would have to work with NIU's labor unions.
- WNIJ's Jenna Dooley contributed to this report