University of Missouri system to freeze salaries

COLUMBIA, Mo. | The University of Missouri system is girding for a prolonged economic downturn with several belt-tightening measures, including a salary freeze and potential furloughs.

University President Gary Forsee is asking system curators to give him the power to furlough employees, meaning workers would not get paid for a certain amount of time but would not lose their jobs.

University documents released in advance of the curators’ meeting Thursday and Friday in Columbia suggest the move is needed to reduce the “possibility and/or the magnitude” of layoffs or firings in the four-campus system, which employs more than 24,000 faculty and staff members in Columbia, Rolla, Kansas City and St. Louis.

“Missouri and the rest of the country continue to be gripped by a recession that is unlikely to turn around any time soon,” Forsee warned in a mass e-mail sent Tuesday to faculty and staff.

The e-mail notes Forsee’s plans to ask curators to freeze salaries for 2010 at current levels as well as require employees to contribute to their retirement plans rather than rely solely on university donations.

Curators will also consider a Forsee proposal to broaden programs for transition assistance for non-faculty employees in case of eventual layoffs.

University officials emphasized that no furloughs or job cuts are planned. But given the uncertain economy, they also didn’t rule out that possibility.

“That is a tool which may or may not be exercised,” said Columbia campus Chancellor Brady Deaton. “There has been no decision made to engage in furloughs.”