In a cost-cutting measure, the University of California Office of the President is proposing a voluntary system-wide program to reduce staff employee hours.

The Employee-Initiated Reduction in Time program would permit UC employees to reduce work hours by five to 50 percent for a period of one to 12 months in order to save the school money while allowing employees to retain work benefits. Employee participation in the ERIT program would be subject to collective bargaining and must therefore be approved by staff unions.

To encourage participation in the program, the university offers benefits including vacation and sick leave based on the rate accrued prior to the ERIT program participation, employee pre-tax contributions to UC Retirement Plan based on reduced salary and continued UC health and welfare benefits without changes to premiums.

Todd Lee, Office of Budget and Planning assistant chancellor, said participation in the program is also subject to the approval of individual departments. Savings accrued through the program would be kept within each division.

“Not only does it save departments money, but it also supports [employees’] different lifestyles,” Lee said. “For instance, if [an employee] has children in school, [he or she] may want to pick them up from school. It gives employees greater flexibility.”

If implemented, the ERIT program will commence on July 1, 2011 and conclude on June 30, 2012. The UCOP is currently encouraging comments and feedback from UC employees.

UCSB Human Resource Analyst Coni Edick said the ERIT program is similar to the Staff and Academic Reduction in Time program in effect during fiscal 2008-2009 and 09-10.

While the Staff and Academic Reduction in Time program was available to academic and staff employees, the ERIT program is only offered to staff and excludes professors and librarians.

Lee said the S.T.A.R.T. program saved the UC $25.6 million during the 2009-2010 fiscal year. Over 500 employees opted to participate in the program at UCSB alone and the program saved a total of $3.1 million during a two-year span.

However, Edick said it is difficult to predict how much funding the ERIT program will generate.

“There was pretty good participation in the [S.T.A.R.T. program],” Edick said. “But there’s no way to project the money that would be saved from the ERIT program. Its success depends on individual employees and their choices.”

UCSB employees are encouraged to review the proposed program and email their comments to Edick by April 29. It will then be sent to the UCOP for consideration.