Layoffs Loom As Contract Talks Hault

Layoffs are looming for employees at Frostburg State University. According to an email sent out to FSU employees on Friday afternoon; “As you are aware, FSU started its budget process with over a $10M deficit and we continue to face a budgetary shortfall of $1.43M due to a reduction in state funding, lowered enrollment, COVID-19 expenses, and loss of auxiliary revenue. FSU did not receive the additional funding the Historically Black Universities and Colleges in the University System of Maryland (USM) received and, as such, FSU finds itself in a more precarious financial situation than some of its USM peers.  

While FSU has exhausted its options at reducing operating expenses, the remaining $1.43M shortfall must be closed by cutting FSU’s payroll in order for FSU to obtain a balanced budget as required by Article III, section 52 of the Maryland Constitution. FSU has reached out to AFSCME Local 239 and have been meeting with them since September 15, 2020. FSU presented a salary reduction plan in order to achieve its balanced budget. The plan included a graduated scale with those at the top bracket receiving a 10% salary reduction and those at the bottom bracket receiving a 1.15% reduction. AFSCME rejected the initial offer and responded with a counteroffer. 

 On October 15, 2020, FSU presented their fourth proposal to AFSCME where no salary reductions would be applied to those making $40,000 or less and a fair percentage reduction would be distributed to the remaining brackets. The percentage of the reduction would be distributed to those brackets making $40,001 or more with an additional three (3) administrative holiday days to be used on December 18, 2020, December 21, 2020, and December 22, 2020. 

FSU understands that AFSCME’s mission is to protect its member employees and respects its advocacy on behalf of those members; however, FSU has the obligation to seek to do what is best for ALL of its employees, union and non-union.  What AFSCME has proposed to date, is a shift of the burden from its members to other FSU employees.  FSU cannot agree to such an unequitable outcome on behalf of its non-AFSCME affiliated employees.  FSU is also concerned that the longer bargaining continues with AFSCME, the more discomfort all its employees will face with the compression of the number of paychecks over which the salary deductions will be applied. 

For these reasons, after negotiating in good faith, FSU has officially informed AFSCME today, October 16, 2020, that under Sections 26 and 27 of the MOUs, layoffs will be implemented, and a 90-day notice will be given in advance to affected employees in the bargaining unit.”

No word yet from FSU officials on exactly how many employees these pending layoffs could impact.

According to AFSCME officials despite having $20 million in reserves, on Friday October 16th Frostburg State unilaterally quit negotiations with AFSCME local 239, the union for all hourly and salaried university employees. Frostburg State management announced they would lay off 15 unknown employees which they refused to disclose to us, in violation of our contract. FSU is the only University System school that is laying off employees instead of coming to an agreement with AFSCME. 

Danielle Dabrowski, President of AFSCME Local 239 at Frostburg State issued the following statement in response:

Frostburg State has repeatedly made statements that pay cuts or layoffs is the only way to balance the budget. This is inconsistent with the past cost savings actions by the university. In the past, most recently during the Great Recession, Frostburg State furloughed employees and shut down campus to offset the budget deficit. Frostburg State has repeatedly refused to discuss furloughs as a tool to balance the budget.

AFSCME Local 239 has sought efforts to shield Frostburg State’s lowest paid employees from taking pay cuts that could become permanent. AFSCME counter proposals included furlough days to address the Frostburg State’s budget short fall which was immediately rejected by the administration.

Frostburg State is going out of its way to hurt employees on campus, punishing them for pushing back against the University’s demand to balance the budget on the backs of the lowest paid employees.  They have acknowledged to our union that they have $20 million dollars in their “fund balance” and they refuse to spend 1% of it to avoid layoffs or salary cuts to the frontline workers at Frostburg.  Frostburg State’s selfish actions threaten the livelihood of their employees and health of the local economy, at a time when small towns and main street shops across Maryland are fighting for their survival.

It just goes to show you that management would rather hoard money for some new building or project a few years down the road than take care of their employees and the community during this unprecedented health crisis.  AFSCME will continue the fight for justice at Frostburg State, shame on the Frostburg State administration