UCW reacts to proposed EKU pay increase

·3 min read

May 24—The Eastern Kentucky University (EKU) chapter of United Campus Workers (UCW) released a statement on Monday about a proposed 2% increase of salaries across the board for employees of the college and a plan to deal with salary compression due to inflation and other issues. It said a 2% raise amounted to a pay cut amid the current turmoil surrounding inflation.

The news of the raise was broke by an email sent out to employees of the university by President David McFaddin. The proposal will be voted on by EKU's Board of Regents in a meeting on June 14. While the press release noted that "any increase in salaries is welcome news for our struggling coworkers," the Union was otherwise critical of move.

"Amidst national inflation rates of 8.3 percent, and with little relief in sight, President McFaddin released an email statement announcing cost of living adjustments totaling just 2 percent. For the many EKU employees who take home less than $50,000 a year, the proposed increase translates into less than $1,000," the release said. "...we — the members of the United Campus Workers of EKU — believe this proposed increase to be grossly inadequate to the needs of the faculty, staff, and graduate assistants who make this university function every day and whose efforts are responsible for the outstanding graduates this institution produces every year."

UCW is currently petitioning EKU for a 10% cost of living raise for all workers of the university as well as a commitment for on ongoing cost of living step increases for all workers at the school. They are also arguing for full tuition waivers and increased base stipends for graduates and to make these changes while restoring staffing levels at the university.

The union was critical of the email's plans to discuss salary implementation.

"It does not indicate what those plans might be nor who would be involved in making those plans," the email read.

EKU Public Relations Director Sarah Baker spoke to the Register about the statement from UCW.

"We've just been looking at the request," Baker said. "We offered obviously a 2% pay increase which they've said was a hidden cut. Just looking at the math of that, it would cost the university $10 million to do a 10% pay increase and that is just not something we are able to find. EKU is 80% dependent on our tuition dollars... So we have about 3,000 students drop in enrollment, which equates to $40 million in lost revenue. In that time, we did not furlough or do any type of reduction in force."

Baker noted the loss in revenue has made it difficult to continuously offer pay increases and EKU's peer institutions also offered a 2% raise. She said the university currently pays for roughly 66% of the tuition of graduate assistants.

"We're offering $11,200 for a full time graduate assistant, that's their base stipend with two courses free each semester. So it's roughly $17,500 that they received towards their tuition," Baker said.

Administration Chief of Staff Colleen Chaney said the state pension system is something that has raised issues for EKU.

"The university system is a member of KTRS and each year we are obligated to pay into the pension system on behalf of our employees," Chaney said. "Unfortunately, with the way that the pension system is set by the state, our increase in our pension obligation has gone up by almost 130%. Which is something budgetarily you have to account for."

The statement from UCW was also critical of President McFaddin's salary, noting he received a 25% pay increase, totalling out to $75,000 a year for a $375,000 salary. Chaney said the raise was due to McFaddin moving up from the role of interim president to full-time president of the university.