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The "Crisis of Confidence" series is a multi-year effort by the Tri States Public Radio to document the impact the two-year state budget impasse had on Western Illinois University and the ongoing recovery efforts at WIU. State support for public higher education institutions has been steadily declining in Illinois for more than a decade. But the issue was compounded, during the state's historic two-year budget impasse during Fiscal Years '16 and '17 which left public colleges and universities with little state financial support. At Western Illinois University, that drastic cut in state appropriations resulted in significant budget cuts, employee furloughs, and layoffs.

Unionized Faculty at Western Agree to Pay Cut

Emily Boyer
Sherman Hall at WIU

Members of the University Professionals of Illinois chapter at Western Illinois University voted overwhelmingly to defer 3% of their compensation for the next two years. They also agreed to pass up a negotiated 1% salary increase.

As part of the UPI agreement, faculty members could be paid back their deferred income in Fiscal Years 2019 and 2020 if two conditions are met including:        

  •           Western receives at least 60% of its state appropriations this fiscal year
  •           Western’s full time student enrollment in the fall of 2019 is at least 90% of what it was in the fall of 2015.

UPI members who earn less than $40,000 will pass up the 1% salary increase but are exempt from the deferral program.
The agreement is part of an effort to help WIU cope financially with a drastic decrease in state aid this fiscal year. Illinois lawmakers have only released 30% of Western’s and most other public universities' share of state appropriations for Fiscal Year 2016.

As Western strives to save money, it set a goal to reduce spending by $20 million over the next two fiscal years. So far, Western has sent out layoff notices to 147 employees and imposed a mandatory furlough program for many non-union employees.  

UPI @ WIU Chapter President Bill Thompson said the union and the administration began working out details of the agreement in March. “I feel pretty good about it. I mean, no one wants to give up money. I don’t want to give up money. I would rather not give up my raise, I would rather not give up 3%, but the university has got its back up against the wall,” Thompson said.

He said the union wanted to help because Western’s financial situation was not created by the school’s administration or the economy. “This is a political problem caused by our governor and the legislators that went along with him. The administration had to solve this problem the best that it could and it came to us for help.”

The UPI agreement is expected to save Western Illinois University about $3.2 million over the next two fiscal years. Much of that money could be paid back through the deferral program beginning in Fiscal Year 2019.

UPI's current contract with WIU expires at the end of June 2017. Thompson said the union and administration were unable to reach an agreement to extend it as they have done for most of the last decade.

He said the union and administration will begin talks on the next contract in August. Thompson said the last full contract negotiations were in 2007 and  it took 10 months to reach an agreement.

Emily Boyer is a former reporter at Tri States Public Radio.