Univ. of California workers protest furloughs

Posted at 07/16/2009 9:52 AM | Updated as of 11/05/2009 9:58 AM

SAN FRANCISCO—University of California employees are indignant after their administrators proposed furloughs to save the system money.  They say top management should look at their fat paychecks first before they mess with their hard-earned money.

About two hundred employees, faculty members, students, and supporters protested proposed budget cuts in ten UC campuses. UC regents are expected to approve UC President Mark Yudof's proposal tomorrow which imposes a one-year systemwide furlough program.  If approved, 80 percent of the system's 180,000 employees have to take 11 unpaid days in a year.

Filipino UC employees say it's easy for high-paying executives to target those in the bottom of the payroll.

Ang maliliit at low-income ang inaatake nila.  Dapat sila.  Sila ang may perks at matataas ang sweldo nila,” said Agnes Suarez, a UC Hospital wing coordinator.

The cuts are being proposed to deal with an anticipated 20 percent reduction in state funding.  Protesters say this only amounts to 2.5 percent of UC's budget.

Marleanne Legazpi, who works for UC’s food service, says, “Merong pera ang UC.  We have 5.5 billion dollars in reserves.  This is the best time na gamitin nila.  This is the rainy day.”

Better yet, protesters say, six-figure administrators should get a big pay cut.

Doon ang dapat nilang umpisahan.  Hindi na yung kami na nahihirapan,” said Richard Laxa, a UC senior custodian.

Backing up the protesters was California state senator, Leland Yee.

“It's unconscionable that these employees are barely making minimum wage.  But you've got chancellors, presidents who make a million dollars.  They make more than the president of the United States,” Yee said.

UC officials say paying high salaries is necessary to stay competitive with the private school system.  Peter King, UC director of media relations, says UC chancellors earn “25 to 30 percent less” than similar school officials across the country.  Kind adds that a high salary ensures “good leadership in hard times.”

Yudof says he is trying to prevent mass layoffs and says the furloughs are proposed even for top executives who would have to take a 10 percent pay cut.  President Yudof said his plan is fair, but “no one is happy about it.”  Protesters say that would barely cause a dent in their administrators' paychecks. But a 4 percent cut for those earning less than $40,000 a year would be devastating.