UMaine System Commits to Employee Income, Benefit Stability

University System aims to avoid involuntary layoffs and sustain employee benefit coverage through June 30th end of our fiscal year while supporting employees addressing personal or family health and childcare needs

Orono, Maine — The University of Maine System announced plans to provide employee income stability and benefit coverage to its 4,676 regular employees through June 30, 2020, which is the end of the current fiscal year.   The commitment, which also includes assurances to pay wages to 2,399 non-federal work-study student employees through May 2, was shared with the university community in a message from Chancellor Dannel Malloy. 

No employee will face involuntary layoff or loss of the opportunity for some form of income replacement with regular benefits through the June 30 end of our fiscal year due to COVID-19 disruptions,” wrote Chancellor Malloy.  “While the financial strain we are facing as a System in the pandemic is very real, and significant, this commitment represents our best effort to make full use of new federal benefits, our own work leave banks and benefit programs, and even state unemployment benefits to provide either work or income replacement options for our employees.”

Employees with reduced or no work due to COVID-19 disruptions will also have the option of requesting a partial or full voluntary furlough and may apply for state and federal unemployment while maintaining University benefit coverage.  Employees unable to pay premiums during a furlough will be able to make up the arrears upon return to work.  

The reduction of UMS’s on-campus student population by more than 90 percent and the transition to remote work has significantly impacted operations across Maine’s public universities’ work units, and revenue is anticipated to be reduced by at least $20 million in the short term throughout the System.  Remote work and limiting campus-based activity to essential operations has been extended through at least May 17.

“We are pleased with the outcome of our negotiations with the University concerning the multiple issues surrounding the pandemic,” said Lorne Smith, Secretary-Treasurer of Teamsters Local 340, the bargaining unit representing service and maintenance employees. “The University has committed  to continued discussions as this unfolds, I believe the employees have been well taken care of to this point.”

The University System will be striving to provide as much flexibility as possible to employees based on their preferences and personal needs while sustaining operations essential to the System’s teaching, research, and public service missions.  The University Services Office of Human Resources is distributing a number of resources to explain employee options.  

Chancellor Malloy led a virtual panel discussion with HR leaders shortly after announcing the employee income and benefit stability commitment to provide additional detail on the policy and to outline the resources that would be available to assist employees and supervisors in finding solutions.