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The Blue & Gray Press | August 18, 2018

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Hour cuts pose issue for adjuncts

By ALISON THOET

Twenty-eight University of Mary Washington employees’ hours will be reduced by 550 per year as a result of the University’s decision to limit wage workers to 29 hours per week.

This reduction is a response to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and the plan for cuts in Virginia is supposed to be signed by Governor Bob McDonnell in early April, according to Sabrina Johnson, associate vice president of human resources.

Beginning Feb. 11, 2013, UMW enacted the wage cut plan, although the ACA becomes effective in April 2014, according to Johnson.  Through a Freedom of Information Act request (FOIA), the Bullet found that the annual wage cuts for the 28 affected employees amounts to an average of $743.80 per employee.

“We have to be in a period where we are eligible,” said Johnson, concerning the early change for the hour cuts.

Adjunct professors are affected by the change in hours different from other employees.  Two of the 28 employees affected are adjunct professors, as well as hourly wage employees.  According to Johnson, the University is still working out a plan for adjunct professors.

“Adjuncts will be included within the scope of county hours and healthcare, but we don’t have a final answer on that,” said Johnson.  “In our discussions with the State, we are looking for any option to best suit employees and that will best serve [UMW’s] students.”

Amanda Rutstein is both coordinator of the Fredericksburg Writing Center and an adjunct English instructor.  Before the hour cuts, Rutstein was paid on a separate account for each position, but her hours and pay are now grouped together.

“What surprised me was the addition of my adjunct hours into my wage hours,” said Rutstein.

Rutstein works about 27 hours at the Writing Center and teaches two English creative writing classes.  The classes amount to a lump sum of $3,000 per class, but are now counted as nine hours in order for the University to quantify the hours, according to Rutstein.

If Rutstein gave up hours teaching to work at the Writing Center, she would have to take less hours, and if she took on more classes instead, she would not make enough money to sustain herself.

“Overall, it’s a decision I would not want to have to make,” said Rutstein.  “In both instances I will struggle.”

As decisions regarding adjunct instructors have not been determined at UMW, according to Johnson, Rutstein may continue working in both positions.  However, the wage cuts remain an issue for Rutstein.

“When the state mandates the hour cuts, then not only can the school not offer us health insurance, but it makes it more difficult to purchase our own,” said Rutstein.