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UW System Administration Office Announces Furloughs For 588 Employees

Workers Will Take 14 Furlough Days Between May And June 2021 To Cover Revenue Losses Caused By COVID-19 Pandemic

Van Hise Hall
Van Hise Hall, home of University of Wisconsin System offices. Photo courtesy of UW System

The administrative arm of the University of Wisconsin System has announced it will furlough all of its 588 employees. Each worker will be required to take one unpaid day off per month from this May through June 2021.

In a letter to UW System Administration employees, UW System President Ray Cross said the UW System is facing “many new challenges to the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic.”

On Monday, the UW System issued projections that the state’s 13 universities and branch campuses faced unprecedented revenue losses of nearly $170 million after all classes were moved online and students were told to stay home after spring break.

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Part of that total came from refunds issued to students for unused housing and dining service fees, which were estimated to cost the UW System around $78 million.

Cross told employees Friday he hoped for a speedy end to the COVID-19 crisis “but the truth is, no one knows how and when that will actually happen.”

In the meantime, he said administrators are doing what they can to preserve the future of the university system which includes reductions in workforce and operation costs.

“This is a painful but necessary reality,” said Cross. “And it is difficult news to share. You and your colleagues across the UW System are the very lifeblood of who we are and what we do. I am so proud of your dedication to our mission in the face of unprecedented challenges. It is my top priority to protect you, your job, and your benefits as best we can.”

On Thursday, the executive committee of the UW Board of Regents approved policy changes authorizing chancellors at the state’s campuses to institute furloughs as one measure to address budget deficits resulting from COVID-19.

So far, UW System Administration, which employs 588 workers, is the first to announce how furloughs will be distributed.

“Starting in May, we will be instituting a one-day furlough per month for all UWSA employees — and that includes UW-Shared Services and UW Extended Campus — to run through June 2021,” Cross said. “That is, for a period of 14 months. Supervisors will be working with employees to come up with a plan to implement these furloughs with the least disruption.”

Cross said the 14 furlough days will save his office around $3 million.

“If conditions change, we may have to take additional action — but for now, this will be our plan,” said Cross.

The $3 million in savings for System Administration pales in comparison to what will be needed to close budget gabs at other campuses. UW-Madison announced projected losses this spring of $100 million. The next highest deficit is at UW-Milwaukee, which projects losses of more than $9 million. The smallest projected deficit is just more than $1 million at UW-Superior.

Editor’s note: Wisconsin Public Radio is a service of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the Wisconsin Educational Communications Board.