UC administration confirms academic employees qualify for job protections during COVID-19 pandemic

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According to the UC Office of the President, or UCOP, career staff and academic employees are both covered in the UC administration’s announcement from last week that there will not be layoffs during the COVID-19, or the coronavirus, pandemic through June 30.

According to Mia McIver, president of the University Council-American Federation of Teachers, or UC-AFT, the answers to frequently asked questions, or FAQs, that UCOP released help to clarify the specifics of what “career employees” encompassed. According to the answer to one of the FAQs, “career employees” refers to both career staff employees and academic employees who work half to full time and are expected to have the job for at least one year.

“Keeping staff employed with pay and health and welfare benefits during this period will allow UC employees to more effectively care for themselves and their families during unprecedented, challenging times,” said UCOP spokesperson Andrew Gordon in an email.

Gordon added that the commitment also applies to students, including academic student employees, graduate student researchers and students in staff positions. According to the answer to one of the FAQs, students with work-study positions will also continue to receive financial aid and campuses will strive to find work-study jobs for them.

In the answer to another FAQ, UCOP added that it is also working to reassign those who have little work due to the stay-at-home order — such as janitorial, dining hall, event and campus bookstore staff — to other positions that they are capable of doing. If the reassignment is not possible, then they are advised to speak with supervisors to discuss possible leave options, including paid administrative leave.

According to McIver, with the protection of jobs through the spring, UC-AFT looks to focus on the fall semester and the return of an in-person class format in its efforts to work for the preservation of academic employees’ positions.

“We are working first of all to ensure that teaching does come back to in-person classroom formats. We don’t want this to be an opportunity for the University of California, which is renowned for the quality of its education, to dilute that by shifting to a more permanent online model,” McIver said. “We think the people who are really serving their students and the university now should be the ones to get to continue teaching after the emergency is over.”

McIver added that she was “thrilled” when she heard that the jobs of fellow union members were ensured in this time of uncertainty.

Gordon added that communications between UC-AFT and UCOP have sought to further clarify the UC system’s decision as UC President Janet Napolitano and the chancellors work to support their community “as much as possible” during this time. According to Gordon, UCOP’s decision to pay both career staff and academic employees has been applicable since the announcement was made Thursday.

“As a public institution, UC has a responsibility to support its employees and local communities to the greatest extent possible, including avoiding layoffs,” Gordon said in the email. “The president and chancellors also want to help UC employees take all health precautions necessary and support the aim of flattening the curve of the pandemic, which is particularly important right now.”

Contact Marie Bellevue at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @MarieBellevue_DC.