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Stricken USP Considering Program of Voluntary Redundancies

08/14/2014 - 10h10

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FÁBIO TAKAHASHI
FROM SÃO PAULO

In a renewed attempt to address one of its most serious financial crises to date, the University of São Paulo (USP) is considering the implementation of a program of voluntary redundancies, as well as incentives for teachers that manage to reduce their working hours.

Since last year, the university's wage ball has exceeded its budget of US $2.2 billion, and it has been forced to rely on savings to maintain its activities.

According to a text produced by the university administration obtained by Folha, the idea is to implement a program of voluntary redundancies which may cover 3000 workers (the document does not specify whether teachers will be among those affected).

In total, the institution has 17,450 technical administrators and 6000 teachers.

The proposal aims to reduce the wage bill by 10%, as currently it represents 106% of the university's budget. However, indemnity payments will cost another US $264 million.

As USP is a public institution, it cannot simply fire workers as in a private company.

The proposals are still yet to be discussed with other administrators at USP, and there will be an internal vote. The institution may end up relinquishing control of part of its structure and expenses to the government.

On Friday, Rector Marco Antonio Zago will meet with faculty directors to discuss the issue.

REDUCED WORKING HOURS

Another option being considered is to incentivize teachers to reduce their working hours, and consequently, their salaries.

It is estimated that if hours can be cut by 25%, wage expenses will fall by 20%. The text does not state how much will be saved if both measures are adopted.

At the start of the year, upon assuming his post, the Rector had already taken some action, such as a temporary block on hiring.

However, the cuts have angered some at the university, and there is an ongoing strike against the Rector's proposal to freeze salaries.

Those involved suggest that the government should provide more resources for the university, which has grown significantly in recent years without receiving any additional funds. In the last five years alone, the number of students has risen by almost 10%.

State legislation earmarks 5% of the revenue from the ICMS (the principal state tax) for USP. The administration of Geraldo Alckmin (PSDB) says it has fulfilled its obligations in this sense.

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