By: Jim Irwin, Vice President for Business and Finance & Chief Financial Officer, Red & Black Contributor
DEC. 9 - I appreciate the opportunity that the Red and Black staff has provided to have a response published with the op-ed article concerning the union negotiations. First, I am pleased to share that the Facilities Union contract negotiations were amicably completed in early November, and a new collective bargaining agreement was executed on Nov. 11, 2022. With this being written, it is important to keep the context in mind when considering the topics that have been expressed in the op-ed piece by my colleagues. Since Mar. 2020, we were dealing with a pandemic, the likes of which had not been seen in any of our lifetimes. As a result, there were many unknowns, far too many to cover here.
The College suffered financial losses of more than $7 million due to expenses and lost revenue related to the pandemic. These severe budget deficits notwithstanding, the President committed to preserving all employees’ jobs and paychecks during the crisis. As a result, unlike many other colleges and universities, W&J did not furlough employees nor reduce take-home pay despite staggering COVID losses. In fact, several colleges and universities eliminated faculty and staff positions, but W&J was able to preserve jobs and sustain operations by utilizing cash reserves that had accumulated.
"the Facilities Union contract negotiations were amicably completed in early November, and a new collective bargaining agreement was executed on Nov. 11, 2022."
The Board of Trustees worked with the College administration to find other ways to reduce expenses in the face of multi-million-dollar losses. Budgets were trimmed throughout the college, and employer contributions to employee retirement accounts were temporarily suspended. Our Facilities employees belong to a labor union that challenged this decision and secured a federal arbitrator’s ruling to require the College to resume contributions to union members’ retirement plans. As a result, the College was forced to further reduce other campus budgets to achieve the necessary budgetary savings. We were pleased that we were able to reinstate a portion of the retirement contributions last fiscal year for non-union employees, and as of Sept. 2022, the contributions were fully reinstated to 8% without the mandatory 2% employee contribution requirement. Also, in Sept. 2022, eligible employees received a 2% pay increase.
"the College was forced to further reduce other campus budgets to achieve the necessary budgetary savings."
W&J seeks to treat all employees fairly and equitably, and we are proud that we have put employees first in our priorities by protecting their jobs, offering excellent health insurance plans, and ensuring that no one lost pay during a crisis that resulted in unprecedented financial losses. Clearly, the last several years were financially challenging that required difficult decisions to be made, and we have navigated through the challenges and have persevered. There is much for which we should be proud
The following article is an Opinions piece that contains opinions of the writer. Opinions pieces are not always representative of the Red & Black Student Newspaper as a whole.