The Daily Californian Online

UC Employees Union Pickets for Cut in Salaries of UC Regents

By Shannon Lee
Contributing Writer
Thursday, March 19, 2009
Category: News > University > Higher Education

Waving signs of protest, more than 30 students and members of the University Professional & Technical Employees union picketed early yesterday morning at the edge of campus, asking for a pay cut in UC executive salaries.

The union, which represents 12,000 UC technicians and researchers, pushed for a cut in the salaries of top-paid UC Regents and executives, arguing that the money saved will make more funds available for education and research in light of state-wide budget cuts.

Similar protests occurred on all UC campuses as the UC Board of Regents began its second day of meetings at UC Riverside.

According to union publications, a 20 percent pay cut in the salaries of executives making more than $200,000 a year would save the university approximately $24 million annually, while a 50 percent pay cut would save $61 million.

The union is also requesting salary increases of 33 percent over three years for the workers it represents. However, UC spokesperson Paul Schwartz said this would not be feasible, even with executive pay cuts.

"We do not believe (the pay raise) is financially realistic given the monumental budget challenges we are facing and the fact the state's current budget proposal includes no funding for faculty and staff salary increases," he said.

The UC Regents voted in January to freeze senior management pay for the remainder of the fiscal year and through next year. Schwartz said there are no current plans to cut executive pay, but that the university is willing to negotiate further with the union.

Paul Brooks, a UC Berkeley spectroscopist and board member of the union's UC Berkeley chapter, said he is frustrated by what he referred to as the regents' disregard for students and refusal to increase union members' wages.

Brooks said the requested cut is necessary to improve research funding and retain employees.

"Two very experienced colleagues of mine left this past year for higher paying jobs at private labs. We lose their expertise, which hurts our research potential," he said.

The Phoenix Project for UC Democracy, a student and alumni-led organization that aims to democratize the regents, also supports the union's efforts.

"The regents decide the fee increases and are the ones with all the power," said UC Berkeley graduate Hillary Lehr, director and co-founder of the organization. "They have no accountability to students and workers."

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