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Itemizer-Observer Report

MONMOUTH — Western Oregon University notified 46 staff members this week that their positions have been eliminated or their hours reduced as the university corrects its budget in response to pre-existing fiscal shortfalls related to decreasing enrollment and the fiscal impacts related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This week has been bittersweet,” President Rex Fuller said in statement. “The joy of welcoming back students has been mitigated by the fact that, during the past few days, we have notified 46 employees that their positions are being eliminated or their hours reduced.”

He did not give details on which employees are affected, “out of respect for privacy and consideration of time to process this news.”

The recently eliminated and reduced positions include both classified and unclassified staff. All affected employees have been notified. Although position end dates vary, employees’ health insurance benefits will be continued through Jan. 31, 2021.

“These are gut-wrenching financial decisions that profoundly affect individuals and their families as well as the university as a whole,” Fuller said. “In the face of the myriad challenges we are forced to reckon with this fiscal year and budget projections for the next biennium, we must do what’s necessary to ensure the long-term success of the university and our students.”

The staff cuts amount to about $2 million in salary savings over a complete fiscal year budget cycle and will not be fully realized until fiscal year 2022. The final FY2021 budget shortfall will be dependent on fall 2020 enrollment, which is trending lower than assumed in the development of the original FY2021 budget. The WOU Board of Trustees will consider a revised budget in November.

The next phase of securing WOU’s financial stability is a review of academic programs and that work is being conducted according to the process outlined in the layoff/retrenchment article of the faculty collective bargaining agreement.

The review is already under way with faculty and academic leadership with the goal of providing a revised, robust academic offering for today’s student. Results of this work and an understanding of its impact is planned for release in January, with the bulk of realized savings in fiscal year 2022.

A statement on the President’s page gives the following information about the cuts:

Classified Employees

In accordance with the collective bargaining agreement and most recent letter of agreement with SEIU, all affected classified employees have been notified of layoff as outlined in Article 44. This process includes a 30-day layoff notice during which qualifying individuals may exercise bumping rights according to seniority and classification. That process begins immediately and may result in qualifying employees bumping into positions or choosing layoff. Employees who move to layoff have access to being placed on a recall list for two years. Additionally, many classified employees will continue on the Extended Benefits Program/Leave Without Pay through Dec. 31, retaining their health insurance until Jan. 31, 2021.

Unclassified Employees

In accordance with our Unclassified Employees Conditions of Employment policy, unclassified employees affected have received 90-day non-renewal (not-for-cause) notices. Employees will remain in their positions until Dec. 31, 2020. Depending on a variety of factors, some employees will be on administrative leave, have work reassigned or work reduced hours during this period. Others will maintain a regular work schedule. This timeline also allows for health insurance coverage through Jan. 31, 2021.

Other affected employees

Employees who have had their FTE status (weekly hours) reduced will see changes in their schedules between Nov. 1, 2020 and Jan. 1, 2021.

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