Hundreds of employees at Millersville University and its 13 sister schools in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education are out of work – and pay – due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to university officials.
LNP | LancasterOnline confirmed at least 700 nonfaculty employees – secretaries, janitors, mechanics, maintenance and food service workers and others – have been placed on unpaid leave and forced to use their accrued paid time off, such as sick days, if they want paychecks during the time campuses are closed.
Colleges across the state are utilizing skeleton crews with minimal students remaining on campus.
Regardless of leave status, workers keep their benefits. And if they don’t have paid time to take, they may file for unemployment.
The employees were originally placed on paid administrative leave, but that ended April 10 under Gov. Tom Wolf’s guidance for the 9,000 other state workers left without work during the health crisis.
The state system, which serves about 95,000 students, opted to follow the same guidelines for its affected employees who are not required to be on campus and can’t work remotely.
“The right thing to do at this moment was to follow the governor’s lead,” state system spokesman Dave Pidgeon said.
The state system already faces a potential $100 million shortfall from issuing refunds for students.
“We are dealing with a lot of unknowns the best we can,” Pidgeon said.
At Millersville, the lone state-owned university in Lancaster County, 92 employees are out of work.
“Being in the midst of unprecedented times with the coronavirus pandemic, coupled with the Governor’s state-wide ‘stay at home’ order and transitioning to both remote learning and remote work, left many in dining and facilities without work,” university spokeswoman Janet Kacskos said in an email.
The decision to put workers on unpaid leave “was not made lightly,” she said, and the university’s “hope and intention is that when campus reopens, everyone will return to their jobs.”
Another 99 employees in areas like housekeeping and maintenance are also working part-time to ensure social distancing, Kacskos said. Those employees, too, can take paid time off to make up hours.
Darrin Spann, a local spokesman for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the union that represents these and tens of thousands more Pennsylvania workers, said employees are “disappointed” about their current job status, but it’s no different than other nonessential workers in the state.
The number of employees on unpaid leave at each state university, besides Millersville, is as follows, according to university officials: Five at California University of Pennsylvania, 26 at Cheyney, 75 at Clarion, 117 at East Stroudsburg, 83 at Edinboro, 57 at Kutztown, 12 at Lock Haven, less than five at Mansfield, 84 at Slippery Rock and 167 at West Chester.
Multiple attempts to obtain data from Bloomsburg, Indiana University of Pennsylvania and Shippensburg were unsuccessful.