Employee groups hit 'income gap' at UI
Representatives of employee groups urged University of Illinois trustees Thursday to address a growing "income gap" at the university between highly paid faculty and administrators and lower-paid union and civil service workers.
Labor groups also rallied outside the meeting to protest raises for top UI administrators.
AFSCME negotiator Tara McAuley said the top 1 percent of employees earn as much as the bottom 10 percent. Salaries for the 50 highest-paid employees rose 16 percent over the last three years compared with 3.54 percent for the 50 lowest-paid workers, which doesn't cover the 7 percent inflation in that period, she said.
"Extreme disparity in wages from highest- to lowest-paid employees is inappropriate for a land grant university whose motto is 'Learning and Labor,'" added Professor Harriet Murav, president of the Campus Faculty Association.
Board Chairman Chris Kennedy talked later with McAuley, saying the board wants to pay workers a living wage and urging her not to make faculty "the enemy." Faculty pay is set by the market, he said.
"We can't say to doctors, 'There's a salary gap, we're going to pay you half as much.' They'll just go somewhere else," he said. "The enemy is an economic structure that's destroyed economic-social mobility in the last 25 years."
Trustees on Thursday approved a state budget request for the 2014-15 school year that seeks a $78.7 million in new money, mostly for salaries for faculty and staff. as well as facilities and utilities.
The operating budget for the current fiscal year, also approved Thursday, reflects a growing reliance on tuition and outside funding as state finances continue to slide.
It provides a 0.2 percent increase in state general funds for the UI, or about $1.2 million, to $668.7 million. Tuition revenue is budgeted at $1.06 billion — up 30 percent over the last three years — and grants and contracts are expected to contribute $772 million.
Another $759 million is budgeted from the UI's hospital and medical service plan, and $667 million will come from auxiliaries and other departments, plus institutional funds, gifts and endowments and student fees earmarked for deferred maintenance on facilities.
The state's pension and budget challenges, constraints on further tuition increases and declining federal research funding mean the university will have to look to private giving or internal reallocations to fund new intiatives, said Christophe Pierre, vice president for academic affairs.