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MSUM, others vote for pay freeze

MOORHEAD - Faculty at Minnesota State University Moorhead and other state universities voted Wednesday to give themselves a salary freeze for the next two years.

Economics professor Oscar Flores said faculty favored skipping raises in light of the state's budget deficit.

"Given those circumstances, it just seemed like the right thing to do," said Flores, the MSUM representative for the Inter Faculty Organization bargaining team.

MSUM and other Minnesota universities anticipate employee layoffs will be likely over the next biennium.

"By doing this, we reduce the potential number of faculty that may lose their jobs," Flores said.

MSUM's budget included a 3 percent salary increase for faculty in the 2009-10 academic year, said Jean Hollaar, university budget officer. A salary freeze will save MSUM $750,000 for that year.

It will also have a financial impact for 2010-11, but it's unclear how much because raises hadn't been factored into that budget yet, Hollaar said.

About 300 professors at MSUM belong to the Inter Faculty Organization, the union that represents faculty at the seven state universities in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system.

Of the MSUM faculty who voted Wednesday, 125 supported the pay freeze and three opposed it.

A pay freeze was overwhelmingly supported by faculty from the six other state universities as well.

The contracts need approval from the MnSCU board of trustees and the Legislature.

MSUM faculty wore buttons Wednesday that said "We're doing our part" in reference to the state's budget deficit.

"I think people are concerned about helping to save other people's jobs," said Cindy Phillips, MSUM accounting professor and president of the campus IFO association.

Faculty also skipped the usual contract negotiation process and reached this agreement much earlier than in typical years.

Flores said this will give university officials more time to plan for the budget deficits.

Administrators, support staff and other MSUM employees belong to different unions, so this pay freeze would not affect them.