Poly unions receive notice of possible layoffs

The unions representing Cal Poly’s faculty and staff have received notices that could pave the way for layoffs at the university.

No specific job cuts have been discussed, and union leaders said the Oct. 28 letter from the Office of the Chancellor is a legal precursor that’s part of a collective bargaining agreement.

Cal State University officials say budget shortages and an ongoing, planned reduction in enrollment by 40,000 students by the end of 2010-2011 mean layoffs may need to be implemented in the 2010-2011 fiscal year.

The planned reduction is due to the state budget crisis that led to a $564 million deficit this year.

The layoff notice did not mention individual CSU campuses or how many employees could be laid off. It said some or all of the 23 campuses may be affected.

Under the collective bargaining agreement, the CSU needs to inform the unions of potential layoffs and have a discussion, CSU spokeswoman Clara Potes-Fellow said.

Faculty and nonteaching staff at the CSU campuses accepted furloughs this year that amount to a pay cut of 10 percent.

Rich Saenz, Cal Poly’s faculty union leader, said the threat of layoffs may be a bargaining tactic to urge faculty to accept furloughs again.

“Some think they’re using this to say if we want furloughs instead of layoffs, we better be willing to negotiate that,” Saenz said.

But CSU officials say the budget situation changes frequently and it’s too early to say with certainty how negotiations will transpire with employee unions.

CSU leaders never promised they would avoid layoffs this academic year if midyear budget cuts create an additional shortfall, Saenz said.

“The letter about the layoffs made everybody realize it’s for real,” Saenz said. “It gives everybody the impetus to convince politicians to bring in more money.”

Cal Poly’s faculty union leader said other oil-producing states such as Texas and Alaska have the tax, which the California bill estimates would generate $1 billion a year for the CSU, University of California, and California Community College systems. The bill would require a two-thirds vote of California’s Legislature.

The budget woes for the CSU system come as universities are receiving more applications than ever.

More than 187,000 prospective students applied to the CSU from Oct. 1 through Oct. 28, compared with 124,000 a year ago.

That’s partly because some campuses shortened their enrollment period, requiring students to apply only from Oct. 1 through Nov. 30 — which is the time period Cal Poly has used for many years.

So far, 16,000 have applied to Cal Poly for the 2009-2010 year compared with 13,000 a year ago, said James Maraviglia, Cal Poly’s assistant vice president for admissions, recruitment and financial aid.

Maraviglia said prospective students who file applications at any time in October or November receive the same consideration.

“We don’t want to see students discouraged,” Maraviglia said. “I want everyone who wants to apply to apply.”