University of Illinois planning staff layoffs due to state budget stalemate

By Jeanne Kuang, Chicago Tribune

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is preparing for layoffs in the fall if lawmakers haven’t solved the state’s budget impasse by then.

An email sent to the university’s deans, directors and department heads lays out a coordinated plan for laying off civil service employees. Managers must report the positions they intend to eliminate by May 16.

The plan is a sign of how the state budget impasse is affecting even Illinois’ most prominent public university, which has weathered the crisis better than other public schools.


Hiring of civil service employees has been frozen at the campus in preparation for the reassignment of employees in other departments who might otherwise be laid off, university spokeswoman Robin Kaler said. Civil service employees with seniority can exercise rights to keep their positions and bump other employees from their jobs, potentially causing a reshuffling throughout campus.

“If we could coordinate among the whole campus we can optimize it to move people into positions that are vacant … so the actual number who lose jobs is as small as possible,” Kaler said.

The university employs 4,332 civil service workers in a variety of jobs, including clerical and office work, technicians, food service and maintenance. The number of positions being cut will be determined by each department.

Layoffs will officially take effect Aug. 27, according to the email.

Public schools statewide such as Northeastern Illinois University, Eastern Illinois University and Chicago State University have issued layoffs, announced furlough days or sped up the school year as Illinois’ 10-month budget crisis continues to cut off state funding to higher education institutions.

“This is another unfortunate side effect of this budget impasse,” said Tom Hardy, spokesman for the University of Illinois system. “Doing this takes thought and time and energy that otherwise might be expended elsewhere.”

Dave Beck, a staff representative of AFSCME Council 31, a union that represents about 1,700 civil service employees at the Urbana campus, said few details about the layoff plans have reached the union.


Beck said the employees who perform many of the day-to-day jobs at the school are the “backbone of the university.”

“It’s got everyone very nervous,” he said. “If there are going to be layoffs we’ll get ready to bargain over them.”


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