Dear staff and faculty,
I know the spring term has been a challenging time as we continue to respond to the COVID-19 crisis. Your commitment to Portland State under these difficult circumstances has been outstanding, and I want to thank all of you for the work you do to support our students, our campus and our mission to serve our community.
As you know, Oregon’s revenues have been battered by job losses, shuttered businesses and economic havoc from the pandemic. At PSU, we’ve sustained significant financial losses because of several years of declining enrollment and the impact of COVID on our campus. An updated summary of our growing financial challenges and response is available here.
With deep cuts in state funding looming and fall enrollment uncertain, it is important that we take further actions to sustain our finances. For this reason, I am announcing temporary reductions in hours for most full-time and part-time 12-month employees starting next week under the state-administered Work Share program.
Work Share enables employers to temporarily reduce work hours of employees who are compensated for their loss of pay by the Oregon Employment Department. Combined with additional funding from the recent federal CARES Act, the financial benefits of Work Share more than offset the loss of hours for most employees. Under the Work Share program, employees retain their benefits. Another advantage of the program is that it reduces the administrative burden on employees, who generally are required to file only a one-time electronic application. Other Oregon universities, school districts and large employers are utilizing Work Share during the COVID crisis.
Under our plan, all PSU employees who are eligible under the Work Share program will see a temporary 20% reduction in work hours, or one day a week for full-time employees. In addition to receiving their prorated wages from PSU, the state will compensate employees with state unemployment benefits plus additional benefits from CARES funding that continues until July 25. For an employee earning a $50,000 salary, for example, that individual would receive 80% of their salary plus furlough benefits estimated at $725 a week ($600 from CARES funding plus $125 in state unemployment benefits).
Participation in the Work Share program requires agreements from campus chapters of the Service Employees International Union and the American Association of University Professors. I am grateful to the leaders in both labor groups who worked to develop and clarify the program with their members. SEIU today approved Work Share for their employees, and AAUP members are voting this week on ratification.
If approved, the program will apply to all units on campus and includes the following employees:
- All SEIU-represented employees, except those in the Campus Public Safety Office;
- All AAUP-represented 12-month non-instructional employees;
- All unrepresented, unclassified (UnUn) employees, except for the administrators and academic leaders who already took pay cuts without work reductions.
The mandatory reductions for all eligible employees start June 1 through June 30. After that, there will be a phased return to full-time hours for employees through December that will be determined by university leaders. Employees will be notified individually by Human Resources on Friday, and managers will work with their staff on how best to implement the reduced hours.
Human Resources has prepared a website on PSU’s Work Share program that includes eligibility, procedures, benefits and other details.
This is a crucial cost-saving step for Portland State. At the same time, the Work Share program more than offsets the loss of pay from reduced hours for most of our employees.
The program, however, does not mitigate the impact this will have on our operations. All of these employees are vital to our mission. These reductions will require units to prioritize the most urgent matters, and it will mean that some activities are delayed. I’m confident that by taking immediate action we can minimize the service disruptions to our campus community.
My announcement today is less than a week before implementation because of the complexity and scope of this effort. We are on a fast track to start Work Share on June 1 because of the benefits to employees and cost savings to PSU.
Thank you again for your diligence and dedication to PSU. With classes ending next week and commencement honoring the Class of 2020 next month, I am both proud and grateful for the work you’ve done to overcome the challenges of the coronavirus crisis and help make spring term a success.
Portland State University