Monday, November 29, 2021

Hundreds of MSU employees on furlough, more anticipated before summer's end

June 9, 2020
A Michigan State University sign on Beal Street on Aug. 23, 2019.
A Michigan State University sign on Beal Street on Aug. 23, 2019. —
Photo by Annie Barker | The State News

Michigan State has recently reached employee furlough agreements with departments on campus and several MSU labor associations in response to the COVID-19 pandemic’s financial implications on the university.

So far, MSU has furloughed 526 employees, three-fourths of which are in the Residential and Hospitality Services department and the rest from various units and colleges. The university anticipates to furlough 600 to 700 employees by the end of the summer, according to MSU spokesperson Emily Guerrant.

"As a self-sustaining auxiliary unit, who provides services to the MSU community entirely funded by room, board, conference and event income, RHS has had to make the difficult decision to furlough many members of our team," RHS Chief Communications Officer Kat Cooper said. "With in-person classes beginning again in September, we will look to returning to work as Spartans return to campus."

Included in these numbers, MSU has reached agreements with several MSU labor unions including: the Administrative-Professional Association, or APA, the Administrative-Professional Supervisors Association, or APSA, the Clerical-Technical Union, or CTU, the Local 1585 and Local 274.

“While the University addresses operational and financial impacts of the COVID-19 health care crisis, protecting our employees’ access to health, dental and life insurance is critically important during this time,” according to a May 29 letter from human resources to supervisors. “We were able to reach agreements that balance this priority with the need to provide your units with a tool for achieving short-term savings where required by placing staff on unpaid furloughs.”

As of June 8, CTU has 57 members on furlough or who will be soon. CTU is unaware of how many furloughs are coming as they are determined by the university and departments, according to President Deb Bittner.

In May, CTU members voted to allow MSU to use furloughs to weather the impact of the coronavirus, and additionally made other sacrifices. 

“Many CTs have taken time off without pay, used up benefit time accruals, managed the difficulties of working from home, and/or dealt with the stress and uncertainty of reporting to work — all in order to help MSU weather the impact of the Coronavirus crisis,” Bittner said in an email.

APSA President Joe Garza said they have not received any official number of furloughs from the university yet. 

These furloughs must last more than 30 days and less than six months, but cannot extend beyond Dec. 31, 2020.

MSU Human Resources will not select employees to furlough, as leaders in each unit will decide and begin the furlough process. 

With unit approval, employees may volunteer for furloughs as well. According to Guerrant, 241 of the employees thus far have been voluntary. 

Seniority rules will apply to which employees return to work first when furloughs conclude.

Under these agreements, the university will continue health insurance, employer-paid life insurance, and dental benefits for furloughed employees in benefits-eligible positions. A full list of benefits can be found here.

Correction: This article was updated at 4:10 p.m. to change Residential Hall Services to Residential and Hospitality Services

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