Early Exit Program to leave faculty and staff vacancies

Cal Poly Pomona’s Office of Employee Labor and Relations is offering faculty and staff an early retirement plan called the Early Exit Program. This voluntary program, designed to avoid layoffs this academic year, is intended for those closest to retirement.

Staff and faculty who opt for early retirement will be able to leave in January 2021 with a six-month severance pay.

The program comes as CPP faces a $20 million budget cutback in response to California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s funding reduction for California State University campuses. The program will help alleviate the gap, but will cause some vacancies in the process, according to the Director of Employee and Labor Relations Yasmin Iltchi.

For staff who are close to retirement like Monica Salembier, nursery manager and plant science coordinator for the Huntley College of Agriculture, the Early Exit Program seems to be the next logical step.

“I know that if I don’t do it, then someone else is going to be laid off,” Salembier said. “Get rid of the people who have been here the longest and let that fresh blood continue to have careers.”

Salembier currently works at AGRIscapes and is considered an essential worker. During the pandemic, she recalled working non-stop with students to keep up with the demands of orders while still complying with health guidelines. She said her motivation to work so hard is to ensure her students were taken care of financially through the fiscal year should she be approved for this program and leave mid-year.

Staff and faculty who are interested in retiring will have 120 days to do so after separation from the university through the California Public Employees’ Retirement System.

Positions that are essential, like Salembier’s, will be handled differently in terms of their final day on campus. The labor relations office explained that essential staff will be able to extend their separation date one month. This will help ensure the university is better prepared to deal with the vacancies. The decision to extend is under the discretion of the division president and manager of the position.

The vacancies that will occur from faculty and staff’s separation remain under the university’s discretion on how to replace these positions.

In a prepared statement, Amon Rappaport, senior associate vice president for communications and chief communications officer, stated that these vacant positions will be reviewed and strategically addressed by the departments the vacant job falls under based on operational need.

“Departments are looking to see if we are able to do our work in a new way,” Rappaport stated. “Some positions could be repurposed or not filled.”

Hector Maciel, chapter president of California State University Employees Union, believes the Early Exit Program will harm students more than faculty as the population of students increases and faculty remains steady, according to CPP’s data sets.

Maciel has proactively advised the remaining staff and faculty against taking on these vacated duties without compensation.

“The students are going to get the short end of the stick,” Maciel said. “We’re here for the students, and if management does not want to hire for the vacant positions, then those services are no longer going to be there.”

Nicholas Von Glahn, chapter president of the California Faculty Association, could not be reached for comment.

In addition to the early retirement program, the labor relations office is also planning further strategies to address the university’s budget gap.

“We will be using available campus reserves,” Iltchi stated. “And reducing operating expenses.”

The reduction in operating expenses will consist of reviewing service and supply purchases to determine if they are critical needs.

Salembier praised CPP for embracing the program rather than resorting to layoffs, however reflected on the severity of the economic situation CSUs are going through because of the pandemic.

“As people look back, they’re just going to go ‘Wow, that was a hell of a time,’” Salembier said. “They’re going to wonder how we got through this and how we did this.”

Applications for the Early Exit Program will be available through Dec. 11.

(Feature image courtesy of Anukrati Omar)

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