Wednesday, September 19

Editorial: UC must not penalize employees amid its lavish spending


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The University of California prides itself as one of the largest employers in the state. But reports of the Board of Regents’ lavish spending and of the administration gutting employee benefits makes it clear the UC has a faulty moral compass.

The most recent victims: new mothers.

Last week, several UCLA employees told The Bruin they were concerned the University reduced disability insurance, which many women use after having a child because the UC does not provide formal, paid maternity leave. The UC announced it would only cover 60 percent of employees’ income for six weeks under its disability insurance, compared to 70 percent in 2016.

The University defended the change as an effort to standardize benefits across the board, allowing more employees to qualify while keeping plans affordable. But as much as the UC needs to reduce operational costs, maternity benefits shouldn’t be its target.

The UC should be establishing a paid maternity leave policy, not allowing some workers’ needs to fall through the cracks. If the University has the funds to spend upward of $15,000 on substanceless gatherings for its regents, it shouldn’t be cutting funds from employees in the name of making ends meet.

Employees expecting children are encouraged to apply for disability benefits if they require compensation. Pregnant employees can only get up to six weeks off with 60 percent of their normal salary under the new disability policy.

After that, there’s a hodgepodge of rules, most requiring employees to use their vacation days and up to 30 days of sick leave to bond with their children. They can request up to a year off to spend with their newborn kids, but at the cost of not being paid.

But new children mean new costs, and for many workers, unpaid leave is not an option.

To make matters worse, employees’ complaints come in the wake of reports that the UC spent an exorbitant amount of funds on posh dinner parties for the regents. The San Francisco Chronicle reported one of the parties cost the University $15,199, $199 more than employees’ maximum compensation for a month of short-term disabled leave.

And that’s not even mentioning the May state audit that found the UC overpays its administrators.

[Editorial: UC requires more state support to improve budget practices]

Reducing disability coverage rings hypocritical in light of these flagrant abuses of discretionary funds.

And sure, inflation and the state’s reluctance to budget more for the UC are certainly reasons for the University to keep costs down. But if the UC wants to argue that there simply isn’t enough money to keep tuition costs flat and parents free to bond with their children, it should be forcing those at the top, not at the bottom, to foot the bill.

Employees should not have to jump through hoops just to obtain benefits – especially when those benefits are slowly being chipped away. The UC has a responsibility as an employer to oversee the well-being of all its employees, not just the highest-paid and well publicized.

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