June 15, 2009

"I think it’s a joke. I’ve tried to schedule furlough time and was denied because we’re short-staffed."

Working through the "furlough," which, it turns out, is another name for pay cut. Does the euphemism soften the blow? I don't think so:
Robert Bruno, a professor of labor relations at the University of Illinois, Chicago, said the furlough experience could be traumatic.

“A furlough is a dangerous and risky bet because it severs the relationship between an employee and their compensation,” Dr. Bruno said. “A worker’s emotional reaction to a furlough takes control of rational thought.”


TosaGuy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
MadisonMan said...

TosaGuy, why'd you remove it?

Furloughs makes no sense for someone like me who is funded by external grants. The state receives less tax money from me. I have less money to spend. I have less sympathy for the State. How does that help?

A furlough is the brainchild of the unimaginative. It's too hard! they say, to figure out how to cut the pay of only those paid only by the state.

TosaGuy said...

delayed discretion.

Pastafarian said...

It would be interesting to see how much these California public employees' salaries are. I might not feel so bad for the woman in the article who took a 9% paycut, if it was cut from $200K per year to a mere $182K, for 40 hours per week of paper-shuffling.

Particularly considering the fact that the rest of the country will soon get to pay these absurd salaries for California, because they can't afford it.

I'm also having a little trouble sympathizing with these public employees' shock at the fact that their jobs are no longer 100% safe and secure. Welcome to the real world.

TosaGuy said...

I started with a private-public sector rant.....deleted it because it was too typical.

I agree with MM...furloughs are the easy way out. Rather, look for innovations in gov't that reduce a task to needing 5 people instead of 6, yet still provide the same or better level of service. It can't be done in all aspects of government, but it can in many parts of it, but politicians are either too afraid to do it or like gov't employee labor union contributions too much.

I'm Full of Soup said...

I find it curious Roberson's job function was not disclosed. As to the DMV guy, if car sales are way way off, is their workload way way off too?

Last thought, this story should be saved for later use about the NYT writing staff. Hah.

Unknown said...

I had to take furlough days in the '90s because of budget problems. It worked out fine. We all liked it; we hardly felt the 10-percent cut, what with taxes and deferred compensation, etc. I saved up all my furlough days and went to Europe the next summer for a long trip. We got raises in good times, so why not cuts in bad times?

This article is just a sob story to make us all say, oh, we need to raise taxes! Oh these poor state employees!

As you say, welcome to the real world.

Jhn1 said...

"Furloughs makes no sense for someone like me who is funded by external grants."
This is dependent upon if you will get *all* of the money back later. If the unpaid furlough wages "go back in the pot" and you only get part of it later, in addition to other withdrawals occurring, then the university has restructured your grant so that they get a larger portion of the total.
To any government institution that would be a slam dunk.

Beth said...

I'd much rather take a furlough than see the kinds of results that come from quick, across-the-board cuts. In the meanwhile, long-range, strategic cost-cutting should be planned.

Anonymous said...

Money quote in the article:

To make extra money, Ms. Roberson teaches belly-dancing at girls’ birthday parties on weekends


Kev said...

I agree with MM...furloughs are the easy way out. Rather, look for innovations in gov't that reduce a task to needing 5 people instead of 6, yet still provide the same or better level of service

This may be the problem. No offense to any government workers reading this thread, but it's always seemed to me that the truly innovative types aren't attracted to government work in the first place, and may even outwardly bristle at the thought of being a bureaucrat. Meanwhile, government workers seem more concerned with protecting their jobs than actually serving anyone.

So what's the solution? I favor term limits for bureaucrats in addition to elected officials, for two reasons: 1) The uncreative class should not be in charge of the creative class for long periods or time, because the former only serves to hinder the latter; and 2) If the uncreative types who populate government can only do so for a limited time, they're more likely to figure out how to become more creative, because they know that their next job will either be working for people in the productive class or working at McDonald's.

MadisonMan said...


Beth, the problem is that long-range to a politician is the next election, which in WI is always about two years away. There is no incentive for the Legislature to find a true solution to the Budget mess, so silly band-aids like furloughs are used until tax revenues inch up, at which point the cash outflows to campaign contributors once again flow.

Penny said...

Furloughs make all kinds of sense when their is reason to believe that the current situation is SHORT TERM. The fact that nearly bankrupt states are using this technique with state government employees to deal with budget shortfalls is either laughable or frightening, depending on how you look at it.

There is a reason that "government worker" and "civil servant" are well known oxymorons. If times like these are not reason enough to bite the bullet and shrink government payroll, soon enough we will have more to worry about than the emotional trauma Robert Bruno described. Talk to the private sector taxpapers, Mr. Bruno.

Nom de Blog said...

I love it when one person tells another person what the rational response should be. They've assumed the antecedent haven't they?

BJM said...

@TosaGuy, isn't "innovations in gov't" an oxymoron?

CA Gov't employees had little concern for the taxpayer as their unions added unsustainable benefits to the budget.

As a CA taxpayer I have little sympathy, especially in light of the crappy service/value given in exchange.

John henry said...

I fail to see how a furlough is a pay cut unless they are being made to come in while on unpaid furlough.

It seems to me that if someone is still getting paid the same amount per unit of work, it is hardly a pay cut,

Yes, it does mean less money in the paycheck but their pay rate stays the same.

I've taught Compensation Management for over 25 years and I just can't see it. Perhaps someone can explain it to me and I can teach my students something new.

As far as the amount of reduction in work and pay, 10% over a month, it hardly seems drastic. What with savings on not having to go in, less taxes etc, I would bet it doesn't add up to less than 5% less in pocket.

If these staties can't stand a measly 5%, with their already high pay scales, retirements, benefits and all, there is no hope for them.

Sounds like whining to me.

John Henry

TosaGuy said...

"@TosaGuy, isn't "innovations in gov't" an oxymoron"

I like my humor and martinis the same...exceptionally dry.

bagoh20 said...

""A worker's emotional reaction to a furlough takes control of rational thought."

Ahh, the rigorous mental standards required to be a bureaucrat.

bagoh20 said...

I work in an industry that has been decimated by the current economy. My entire company is working 4, 7 hour days/week. Many of us in management have taken pay cuts of 20 - 50%. We are the lucky ones still working, and that's how we see it.

Government employees have no idea what sacrifice is. My fellow workers (who are really sacrificing) are still paying the salary of these "poor suffering souls". Sorry, but it's "cry me a river" from our point of view.

Penny said...

New Jersey is an other nearly bankrupt state that decided on 10 furlough days. Apparently this was such an emotional blow to the state's unionized workers that they will be getting 7 paid days back through a personal leave bank. That wasn't satisfactory either, so the agreement GUARANTEES there will be no layoffs of said workers for a year and a half.

Just so happens this is a gubernatorial election year, and surely not the time to ruffle any voters' feathers with a good dose of reality.

MadisonMan said...

I fail to see how a furlough is a pay cut unless they are being made to come in while on unpaid furlough.

Well, I have to get work proposed on grants I work under done. So yes, I could very well see having to work while on unpaid furlough.

What's not clear to me: what happens to the salary monies that the grants are to give me? And to the overhead that is calculated on them? If the salary money is reduced, then the overhead that comes to the University as part of the grant is reduced as well. A lose-lose-lose for the State. If it's not reduced, what's it used for? It can be used for travel, but not for things like computers or software. No one in the University can answer these questions. Apparently, the questions are too hard.

Actually, I don't really have to get the work done -- but the success of securing future grants is predicated on the successful pursuit of present grants. If you start not producing, funding sources suddenly shut off the faucet.

dick said...

If you look at the news in CA today, Arny has proposed that rather than have multiple tax enforcing and collecting agencies that they be combined. This would streamline the whole state tax system, cut waste and duplication and in the long run save money. The statement in the newspapers is that now is not the time for this.

This has been the policy of the majority party in the legislature every time this sort of plan has been mentioned. The question then becomes when is the right time to discuss streamlining the government, getting rid of duplication and warring agencies, etc. The legislature just sits on its hands confident that the people will forget it and continue to vote for them and the unions claim that any attempts like that will do a tremendous disservice to the wonderful government workers who do so much for the people and all for the children. End result is that nothing gets done and the next legislative session has the same budget problems that they will not attempt to solve.

Beth said...

Madisonman, I agree about the way legislators see "long range," but the institutions they oversee and fund could do a much better job of restructuring were they to have time to do so. I'm certain the university system I work in will be have major cuts not just this year but in the coming two years. That's not even negotiable. But we'll survive them better - by survive I mean, we'll continue to educate and graduate students - if we can make those cuts part of an overall restructuring of the university system across the state, and not just slash across the board, with a month to decide the cuts. If a furlough this year would give us the breathing room to do that, then I'm fine with it.

Revenant said...

If they don't think they're paid well enough, they can quit.

End of story.