Furlough Update – A Message From Mike

Dear Membership:

Today APA chapter presidents convened (by Zoom) with MTA legal field representatives to discuss Salem State’s intent to furlough workers for five weeks by June 30, 2021. The intent letter was served on Tuesday of last week, ahead of the holiday weekend.

The intent letter was shared and discussed today along with commonalities and highlights from your survey responses. Many voices brought attention to details and impacts associated with the proposed furlough—workloads, income, retirement, benefits, unemployment and inequity and mismanagement, and your concerns are fully understood. Not sparing “331”, “BOLD” and the recent substance of Salem News and social media emerging from our community.

I invited faculty members to join our meeting today to share their position on these matters as well. And we were joined briefly by Elizabeth Duclos-Orsello and Juditha Burchsted for an overview of faculty conditions and concerns over the request made by Salem. Their commentary was appreciated and warm sentiments were shared about faculty appreciation of the union administrators, which we were pleased to hear.

(And I want to pause to note that when faculty expresses discontent with “administrators”, I have learned they are referring to high-level administrative figures in our organization with whom we share a occupational descriptor—we are not those “administrators”. (Relief.))

This board discussion was very much so a determination of whether or not Salem management would be negotiated with by APA as a local issue; or if the proposal should be regarded as open to statewide input—and likely be an ongoing matter more aligned with future contract negotiations.

We voted to manage this locally; and sooner than later, which is aligned with member responses.

The proposed plan by management requires a response from unions or potentially a risk of management rights to impose a solution. I considerate that as possible.

We will begin discussing the proposal with Salem and a DHE representative present on Monday July 13. Sherry Horeanopoulos, statewide president will lead on our behalf with myself and Rosa Taormina from the chapter.

Beyond this meeting, we will schedule a chapter meeting (by Zoom) and give an overview of what we learn from management, and how receptive they are to our ideas. We are duty bound to present your concerns, and aim to mitigate financial impact and reduce anxiety and stress in every ask that we have.

We will also be certain to express discontent over this request by management and condemn practices by Salem that may incur future tolls that may undoubtedly be absorbed by the workforce.

To give you further insight available now, the following questions have been most popular and were perfectly expressed by an email from a team of members today—I will repeat that here:

Q.   Will the union help with filing for unemployment?
A. MTA can organize a workshop, we may request HR do same and I feel they willing to be supportive to us.

Q.   Would the union consider foregoing union dues while an employee is furloughed?
A. Possibly. MTA / NEA is not up to us. But we will ask.

Q.   Will health insurance coverage or costs be affected? If so, how?
A. Management’s proposal expresses that you pay your portion, they pay theirs. Of course, we will ask for more. Also we are hopeful GIC will extend their pandemic hardship plan.

Q.   Will we have the choice to decide to take one week at a time, or five weeks straight?
A. You may have input at your department level, in the management proposal.

Q.   How will offices of one full-time staff continue to serve the campus during the furlough? 
A. We will have to point out exceptions to management, and express the need for flexibility.

Q.   When will the negotiation begin, and when can we expect it to be done?
A. We would want this done sooner than later, knowing that we have to split between years to prevent impacting retirement plans, and it would certainly be nice to benefit from additional unemployment benefits.

Q.   If the APA agrees, does MSCA and AFSCME need to agree before we can start the furlough process?
A. This should be similar to VSIP, we had separate agreements.

Q.   What will occur if the other unions do not agree, and APA does—will we be required to do more?
A. We are going to respond to the one request.

And I will close with the timeline of events, which you may recall from earlier email.

June 23, the Department of Higher Education met to discuss financial status of institutions, in which meeting Paul Mattera (Salem BOT) raised concerns.

June 25, the DHE issued a memo to the Massachusetts State University presidents, extending the ability to manage cost control measures per location.

June 30, Salem State University General Counsel, Rita Colucci issued an Intent to Furlough notice and request to bargain, this included a proposal plan—which mirrors information our community received in an email from John Keenan’s office on the same day.

Now, July 1, I posted a reaction to the intent to furlough on Facebook, and I apologize that I did not use listserv as that message likely did not reach everyone here.

Beyond this, no additional information has been exchanged with Salem State beyond coordination for potential meeting dates. It is important that you all understand you are aware of what is available to share. Next, we learn more on this upcoming Monday.

We will get through this as we have been through much already. You are holding them up with your hard work and dedication, and you are going to come through again.

Please have a good weekend, and practice safe measures for your health. I will be in touch, and feel free as always to reach me via email. I will respond.