Three views on Overtimegate:

10/20/2010: I’m posting 3 comments from readers on President Lariviere’s decision to encourage managers to use overtime work to compensate staff for pay lost to the state mandated furlough, and ensure that the work of UO got done despite the furlough.  Thank you all for these thoughtful comments. I know this blog gets petty and whiny at times. It seems that’s my fault – its readers are neither.

From a reader “with some political experience”:

The recent flare up over the overtime issue for classified staff is a good example of what’s wrong with state leadership and government, rather than what is wrong with the UO. The UO absorbed disproportionately large cuts of millions of dollars in state support, but rather than limiting admissions and reducing access to classes, as happened in California, we managed to take in an even larger freshman class, sustain access to classes, as well as to expand need-based financial aid to ensure college access for all qualified Oregon students.

The efficiencies that enabled us to serve even more students with even less state aid were enabled by extraordinary efforts by both faculty and staff. The decision to recognize the contributions of classified staff, our lowest-paid employees, by allowing their approved overtime hours to offset arbitrary furloughs, when specifically justified by work needs, cost the state nothing and helped to serve the needs of thousands of students. The argument that the issue is one of public perception, not the substance, is well, clueless.

Increasingly, voters appear to see through the façade of the political melodrama associated with artificial, temporary, and counterproductive ‘crocodile tear’ cuts.  These have made no sustained difference in the past to the increasing gap between state expenditures and revenues.

In my opinion, the governor and his aides missed an opportunity to distinguish budget tricks from real decisions and effective leadership. I hope in whatever way most effective, our campus supports and defends our President.

I completely mostly agree with this statement. But this comment on it makes some good points too:

I find the rationalizations for “Overtimegate” to be somewhat self-serving, arrogant, and, well, “clueless.” The overtime has been justified, sort of, on the grounds that it was necessary to get the job done. Plausible, but I still wonder how the other campuses managed, without, apparently, flouting the will of the Governor? But mainly, the justification for the overtime has been linked to the staff in question being “our most vulnerable colleagues” (Lariviere) and “lowest-paid employees” (politically experienced reader). Which is it, sympathy for our supposedly underpaid union staff – try selling that to the public! – or the need to get the job done?

In any case, however justified or unjustified the overtime was, the Governor did order the furloughs. Perhaps “the [G]overnor and his aides missed an opportunity to distinguish budget tricks from real decisions and effective leadership.” But Kulongoski is, well, the elected Governor. Unlike our reader or even Dr. Lariviere. If the latter think they are so much better qualified, perhaps they should be running this election cycle?

At the very least, Lariviere chose to pull an end-run around the governance of the state. If he believed the overtime to be so essential and well-justified, why didn’t he just announce what he was doing up front? Now it appears, because it very likely is true, that he chose to try to pull a fast one on the state. And now, not surprisingly, he has been found out, it must be said, UO Matters style.

It will be interesting to see how this plays in public opinion, and not just on campus, where we are called upon to support “our President.” (And telling that our President merits a cap while our governor does not.) I hope this doesn’t cause major trouble for UO, for the autonomy plan, and I hope it doesn’t result in Lariviere’s departure. But I think things stand on slightly shaky ground right now. 

For the record, UO Matters had nothing to do with the Nigel Jaquiss story. Mr. Jaquiss is obviously capable of getting public records on his own. But, of course, someone told him what to ask for.  Probably someone at OUS. And it seems the OUS public records custodian, Ryan Hagemann, promptly produced the public records. Try getting that kind of service from Hagemann when Pernsteiner wants the document kept secret. It will take months and an order from the Attorney General.

And another reader posts:

As a UO classified staff member who was, shall we say, close to the bargaining process last year, I’d like to point out some things that apparently are not known, or perhaps conveniently forgotten, by those who are critical of Lariviere’s decision and the negative feedback the “outing” has drawn.

This was never about overtime, or doing an end run around the governor. This overtime plan was all about trying to mitigate a gross inequity that developed when, as a result of the SEIU bargaining agreement, the classified staff was the only group of employees who were obligated to take furlough time at UO. Those invoking the “will of the governor” are conveniently forgetting that he ordered furloughs for ALL state employees. So how come there’s been no complaining that Lariviere flaunted the will of the governor by not imposing furlough days on faculty and administrators? As a matter of fact, the governor had no authority to “order” furlough days for union-represented staff – that had to be bargained. The union agreed to the furloughs in the spirit of the shared sacrifice called for by tbe governor – even though we were thoroughly convinced ahead of time that there would be no such shared sacrifice at UO.

As you can imagine, this bothered the hell out of your classified staff members, but it also troubled Lariviere. He’s no fool – he knew any attempt to circumvent the furloughs would be political dynamite, but then again he also recognized how explosive an issue it could be for campus staff if such an inequity was left to stand. The overtime “solution” was seen as the only viable way to potentially mitigate the inequitable situation on this campus without violating the union contract. It’s a far from perfect solution for a no-win situation, and maybe Lariviere’s rationalization for the overtime seems clumsy and unjustifiable, but the bottom line is he saw an injustice and had the integrity and guts to try to do something about it. It’s true he didn’t broadcast this policy far and wide, but it’s been no secret; we were never told to keep it quiet.

Oh, and those other campuses, how are they getting by without this policy? Well, there IS overtime being worked by some classified staff, just not as a result of a semi-formal policy. And except for at SOU, the other campuses are now co-conspirators in thumbing their noses at the will of the governor. While most (but not all) campuses did mandate furlough days or pay reductions for faculty (where not unionized) and for administrators, except for at SOU those have now been rescinded. Not for classified staff, however. (Or the campus presidents, I should add.) The union recently asked OUS to reopen the contract to renegotiate the furlough days in light of this development, but OUS refused. For political reasons, no doubt.

For certain, this flap will not be helpful in advancing Lariviere’s new governance plan. But I also have to concede that it’s a great argument for the need for it.

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