UC employees making $40,000 per year or less will have to take 11 unpaid days -- a 4 percent pay cut.
The higher the salary, the more days off and the greater the pay cut.
"They are asking us to take furloughs, unpaid days off, they are asking us to 8 percent cuts, they are telling us that they may be laying people off," union leader Lakesha Harrison said.
The unions do not have to comply, but UC President Mark Yudof says he will ask them to reopen their contracts to take their share of the furloughs.
"If they say no we will consider other financial alternatives including layoffs," Yudof said.
Yudof has already taken a 10 percent pay cut. His total annual compensation before the cut was $828,000. He and all senior managers will receive 10 furlough days. He says the UC system will receive $813 million less from the state this year -- a 20 percent cut.
The furloughs will help save the UC system $184 million.
"No one likes a pay cut, but no one likes to be laid off either so we have to make some tough choices," Yudof said.
Students will have to pay 9.3 percent more in fees, but overall campus spending cuts is how UC will balance its budget.
But those cuts, regents and chancellors argue, are already harming the UC system's reputation.
"It's been the story of UC and the story of California and the cuts that we are making threaten that margin of excellence that has made us special," UC Irvine Chancellor Michael Drake said.
"And we're going to see the greatest university in the U.S., if not the world, decline and that's ridiculous," UC Regent George Marcus said.
"I think we really have bought ourselves a year with this furlough program but we are going to look at significant damage if we need to go beyond this in needing to extend it much further," academic council chair Mary Croughan said.
Now that the finance committee has approved the furloughs, the full Board of Regents is expected to do the same Wednesday. If passed, 108,000 full time UC employees will have between 11 and 26 furlough days beginning in September.