Administrators say they do not know how many University employees will be laid off to close the remaining budget gap, but they do know this: The more staff members who choose to leave voluntarily, the fewer employees will be forced out.
A strong response to the voluntary layoffs program the University is offering to managerial and professional staff, combined with attrition, will likely account for more than 150 job eliminations, Vice President for Human Resources Michael Peel said this week. But as of today, longtime staff will no longer be able to receive extra severance benefits in exchange for opting to leave.
Though all staff who volunteer for layoffs will receive severance packages amounting to two weeks’ pay per year of service at Yale, Thursday marked the last day staff could volunteer for a layoff without seeing their severance pay limited to 52 weeks’ worth — a one-time incentive designed to encourage staff who have worked at Yale for over 26 years to retire, Provost Peter Salovey said.
“It’s a special benefit for longtime employees,” Salovey said, “and an attempt to minimize involuntary layoffs.”
Even after some staff choose to leave and departments leave open positions vacant, the remaining gap will have to be closed with some involuntary layoffs, which will affect both managerial and professional and clerical and technical staff, Salovey said. But without more complete budget models, Peel said, administrators do not yet know how many total jobs will be cut. Each department will decide how many layoffs it needs to make to meet its individual budget target, Salovey said.
“Voluntary layoffs and attrition will account for a large proportion of the positions we will have to reduce,” Peel said in an e-mail.
Final budget models will be ready by the April meeting of the Yale Corporation later this month, Salovey said.
To avoid as many involuntary layoffs as possible, human resources administrators have urged managers to talk to their staff about volunteering for layoffs — but not pressure them into leaving, Salovey said.
“Many staff members who may be interested in voluntarily separating from the University may also be reluctant to come forth,” said a message to managers posted on the human resources Web site. “Ultimately, the hope is that you and your staff member find a mutually beneficial solution, with an eye towards contributing to the University’s required budgetary reductions.”
Even though they do not know how hard they will be hit with layoffs, clerical and technical staff who belong to the Yale union Local 34 took a wage freeze this year in exchange for the administration’s assurance that any Local 34 employees who are laid off will be given priority for other open jobs at Yale, Local 34 president Laura Smith said.
Such former staff members receive certain salary and benefits while looking for new work, Yale unions spokesman Evan Cobb GRD ’05 said.
“There are never no layoffs,” Cobb said last month, “but one of the things we wanted to prioritize is to make sure that members have a chance at getting new jobs that are created.”
Though they know layoffs are inevitable, Smith added, union members were hopeful that they would find new work within the University because the number of clerical and technical staff at Yale actually grew despite layoffs last year.
But the added security built in to the recent union contracts has not made it any easier for staff at Yale waiting to see where the axe might strike.
“I talk to my friends and stuff, and it’s like, have you heard anything? Do we know what’s going on? Do we know when?” said Mary-Jo Mark, a senior administrative assistant in Finance and Administration. “I’ve heard absolutely nothing.”
In addition to severance pay — which was doubled last spring from one week’s salary per year of work to two weeks’ — managerial and professional staff who choose to retire early or leave can keep receiving health insurance through Yale for anywhere from six months to a year at the rate they currently pay, and increased rates for another six months after that. Departing employees will also receive payment for their unused vacation days, though not their sick days, as a lump sum when they leave.
After laid-off employees stop receiving severance pay, some will qualify for retirement benefits, making them eligible for retiree health benefits, a scholarship program for their children and a lump-sum payment for half of their unused sick days. Those who are near the threshold for retirement eligibility can put their bonus vacation time, severance pay weeks and sick days toward reaching the retirement qualifications.