University of California imposes pay freeze as losses mount

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SAN FRANCISCO — The University of California is imposing a system-wide freeze on salaries of its non-unionized employees due to enormous financial losses caused by the coronavirus pandemic, President Janet Napolitano said Monday.

Napolitano is taking a 10% voluntary pay cut, as are the system’s 10 chancellors, she said in a statement that was sent to faculty and staff systemwide. She said her office has initiated conversations with union leaders so they understand the seriousness of the financial situation.

“I know some of this news is unsettling, during an already difficult time,” Napolitano said. “The present realities and ongoing uncertainties, however, require us to take actions in order to adjust to current circumstances,”

The UC, with more than 290,000 students, is the country’s largest public higher education system. It estimates financial losses of nearly $1.2 billion from mid-March through April, and those losses are expected to increase in the months ahead, Napolitano said. Compounding the losses, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced last week a revised state budget for 2020-2021 that includes a 10% funding reduction for UC of $372 million.

To help cope with the shortfalls, Napolitano and the system’s 10 chancellors agreed to a system-wide freeze on salaries for “policy covered staff employees,” or non-union staff, for the 2020-21 fiscal year and the 10% cut to their own salaries for the same time period, said Napolitano.

Napolitano's office did not immediately say how many employees would be affected by the freeze. But the UC says on its website that there are 14 unions representing more than 79,000 workers, and total employment for UC is 199,000.

The UC’s governing board and Napolitano have their bimonthly meeting Tuesday through Thursday, when they are expected to focus on budget concerns and guidelines UC campuses will use when reopening to students. The UC has not yet said if courses will resume in classrooms this fall or online due to concerns about the pandemic.

“We are a strong organization and will work over time to address our losses and recover,” said Napolitano.

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