Thursday, May 28, 2009

The flip side of crisis = opportunity

I can't believe that May is ending. I haven't posted in over a month... So what's been going on?

Well, the larger issue that has been influencing our work lives and environment is the state's budget crisis. A union agreement that passed in May promised no layoffs in the coming fiscal year, but offered a retirement incentive package. I don't recall the exact numbers, but I believe it was something on the order of 1/3rd of our agency qualifies for this package. Even after the agreement passed, we weren't sure who was leaving. We still aren't. And we can't imagine what things will look like once we lose those people who carry with them so much institutional knowledge.

There are issues with the budget, moreover, that are so serious that it seems every day brings some new restriction. State agencies have been on a hiring freeze for something like a year now, with no promise of letup. The only way we'll save money via retirements, as far as I can guess is to NOT rehire those positions that are left vacant. The supplies - now that's an issue, too. We can't print things out anymore. We must absorb everything on-screen. I'm not so good at that, so if my proofreading gets worse & my work seems a bit more careless, I apologize in advance. Just this weekend, it sounds like the legislature raided one of our programs that provides grants. There is no purchasing being authorized. Our fiscal folks are at once under serious strain and yet having little to do because of the freeze. When the dam breaks, so to speak, it will be extremely difficult for them, no doubt, since there will be months of catching up. The new SEBAC agreement includes required "furlough days" (during which the agencies will be closed, employees will not report to work, and will not be paid). Even if you did the voluntary giveback / unpaid leave days in the April-June period, the furloughs are required.

Still, I know our agency & even our state are not alone. I'm grateful that our situation isn't worse. And I'm hopeful that this crisis will represent an opportunity - that it will require us to work in new ways and thus to innovate. The weight of our many years of tradition at this institution will no longer matter as much, because we cannot afford to keep the status quo. We have to work together in new ways. Those who are left will have to pull together, pool knowledge, share burdens, and communicate more directly than we ever have had to before. I know that our leader has shown his leadership skills more than ever, with his optimism and promise that our flexibility and adaptability will be our strength.

No comments: