Minutes

April 7, 1999

Delagates Present Forrest Aiken Brenda Ambrose-Fortune Martha Barbour
Terry Barker Maxcine Barnes Linwood Blalock Connie Boyce
Jean Coble Linda Drake Kathy Dutton James Evans
Monisia Farrington Linda Ford Kim Gardner Karen Geer
Sherry Graham Dorothy Grant Michael Hawkins LaEula Joyner
Charlotte Kilpatrick Ken Litowsky Bobbie Lesane Denise Mabe
Jill Mayer Ken Perry Vicki Pineles Lynn Ray
Rickey Robinson Jane Stine Cindy Stone Diane Strong
Robert Thoma Verdell Williams Carol Worrell

Delagates Absent Betty Averette Peggy Berryhill Mary Braxton
Denise Childress Linwood Futrelle Lorrie Hall Joanne Kucharski
Ruthie Lawson Janice Lee Dee Dee Massey Eileen McGrath
Terry Teer Laurie Charest

Alternates Present

Joanna Smith


Guests Pete Andrews Eric Ferreri Michael Hooker
Drake Maynard Roger Patterson Scott Ragland Nora Robbins
Jim Ramsey

 

Call to Order, Welcome to Guests

Chair Jane Stine called the meeting to order at 9:30 a.m.

The Chair welcomed the Forum to the Tate-Turner-Kuralt building. She then welcomed Chancellor Michael Hooker to make opening remarks.

Chancellor Hooker said he had recently spoken with Provost Dick Richardson following his recent heart attack. Richardson had had a mild heart attack, but had never lost consciousness. Hooker has asked Vice Provost Ned Brooks to take over as acting provost until Richardson’s return. Brooks and Hooker have remained in daily contact with Richardson.

Hooker said that his voice had changed somewhat because of the steroids he had been taking to control the pain and nerve degeneration associated with his chemotherapy. During his treatment he had hardly noticed his treatments until after the fourth session when he began to experience an adverse reaction, the nerve degeneration. To combat the severe pain, Hooker had been prescribed steroids. He said that his tumors have been shrinking, and that he had been talking with the National Institute of Health director about current lymphoma research. Given current breakthroughs in medical technology, he hoped that by the time the disease recurs, biotechnology agents would render his lymphoma a chronic, not fatal disease. Hooker thanked the University community for its expressions of appreciation and good wishes. He said that these demonstrations have been staggering, and represented the great respect the University community has for the office of the Chancellor.

Hooker took a moment to praise Derek Poarch for his reorganization of the campus police force and his implementation of the community policing concept. He noted that Poarch had taken time over the last six months to interview all 150 officers in the police department. Hooker thanked Poarch for his phenomenal job.

Concerning the outsourcing issue, Hooker expressed his sorrow that this subject had caused so much consternation within the University, and recalled that the Legislature had mandated that the University conduct this study. Again, the study had pushed the University to find ways to improve the quality of its services “better, faster, and cheaper.” He had no objection to the University studying its operations, and had confidence in the work of the Steering Team that it would produce prudent and responsible recommendations on outsourcing, although he could not yet comment on its reports on Housekeeping and Printing Services.

Hooker was also reluctant to comment on current legislative discussions. He noted that the legislative session might not end before September, and said that there was little revenue for the State to allocate this year. University administrators will continue to make their pitch to the Legislature on behalf of the University. Hooker thought that legislators have come to recognize the importance of the Legislature to the State’s economy in the past four years in what he termed a “sea change.” He cited the Legislature’s willingness to fund pay raises and capital and operating budget increases as evidence of this recognition. However, this year, the legacy of tax cuts and court settlements have painted the Legislature into a budgetary corner. Real information about the legislative budget will probably not emerge until sometime in the summer, after the State’s revenue situation comes into focus following April 15.

Hooker offered to receive questions from the Forum. There were no questions, and Hooker thanked the Forum for the opportunity to speak. The Chair thanked Chancellor Hooker for the time and effort he made to be with the Forum.

Special Presentation

The Chair introduced Associate Vice Chancellor for Finance Roger Patterson to talk about the policy requiring direct deposit of paychecks for new Employees. Patterson passed out a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) document on this subject to provide background on reasons for the change. Among the reasons that the University will require direct deposit for new Employees is that there are a tremendous number of student Employees who desire direct deposit of paychecks. Finance is endeavoring to respond to needs expressed by other people in this age of technology.

Patterson noted the national trend among institutions to move to require direct deposit for Employees. Finance has heard quite often that departments want to move to direct deposit so as to avoid the hassle of distributing paychecks to Employees every Friday. Patterson said that it is inefficient for the University to run two different systems for Employee paychecks.

Direct deposit is by far the most efficient of the two methods now employed to distribute paychecks to Employees. At UNC Hospitals, all workers will be required to convert to direct deposit. However, at UNC-Chapel Hill, the University will do a “strong sell” to Employees not using direct deposit to convince them of the value of this system. University policy will be to require direct deposit only for newly hired Employees.

Finance has created this policy in response to requests from students, among others. The department has experimented with post-docs using direct deposit and found that these students loved the feature. Direct deposit is particularly appropriate to use with students for many reasons; one reason is that students must stand in long lines at the cashiers’ office to receive refund checks resulting from the difference between tuition paid and financial aid received. Finance is certain that students do not want to waste time standing in line for these checks, and will test ways to avoid these lines this summer.

Patterson noted that a large number of Employees, over 80% of the total Employee base, have already elected to direct deposit their paychecks. However, of those 63 Employees earning less than $10,000 a year, only 21% are on direct deposit. In the $10-20,000/year range, fully half of all Employees receive their paychecks through electronic direct deposit. This percentage rises with income level.

Patterson sought to respond to some of the questions raised about the direct deposit policy. He noted that the University is working with local banks to get a good deal for new Employees on their checking accounts if they elect to use direct deposit. Some Employees currently use checkcashing services, and might come out better from the deal by choosing direct deposit.

Another question concerned keeping track of students working for the University. Patterson knew that this new policy would require departments to be more accurate in accounting for student Employees, making sure to pay students correctly and take them off the payroll when appropriate. Patterson noted that all final checks for students and Employees are “cut checks” rather than direct deposit, which provides employers a means to insure an amicable parting.

One question dealt with possible problems facing Employees and students whose accounts are based in out-of-town banks. Patterson said that the direct deposit system works for any bank based out of town or out of state. He noted that his office had received a great deal of praise for this initiative, and even some complaints that the University is not making every Employee convert to direct deposit.

Patterson noted that longevity pay would be direct deposited when practicable. He also noted the belief that direct deposit should not have a significant impact on staff recruitment. In fact, Patterson thought that the University’s initiatives to set up lower fee checking accounts for new Employees would have a positive effect on recruitment.

Concerning the recruitment of foreign students, Patterson said that these students would utilize the social security number issued required by the IRS when working in the US.

Bobbie Lesane noted that some Employees are adversely affected by banking charges on checking accounts with less than a minimum amount. Patterson noted that some Employees will want a service allowing them to withdraw their entire paycheck from the bank every month, and said that the University would work to find a way to make this available through local banks as cheaply as possible for new Employees. However, this service would not be available to those Employees currently on direct deposit.

Connie Boyce noted that the last paycheck for any Employee is not direct deposited as a control feature. This allows the University to recover keys and ID cards, among other items. Additionally, severance paychecks are not direct deposited.

Patterson said that the policy would become official July 1.

Robert Thoma noted that the policy of allowing current Employees to opt out of the direct deposit system places a burden on the system to maintain cut checks for these few Employees. Patterson said that the University would do its best to sell the benefits of direct deposit to current Employees not using the system, but might take a different approach in a couple of years with those electing for paper checks every month. Patterson thought the phase-in approach would be more effective in the long run.

Patterson foresaw that the University would offer new Employees a menu of different banks and the services they provide Employees, similar to other feature. Dorothy Grant said that students would probably elect to join the credit union if they are eligible. Patterson said that the credit union and the banks are all excited about the move to a direct deposit system, whether Employees open checking accounts or simply desire clearing accounts.

Patterson asked Employees to email or phone Dennis Press, Betsi Snipes or himself with comments, particularly from those front-line people who would be directly affected by the change.

The Chair thanked Patterson for his time and comments.

Human Resources Update

The Chair introduced Director of Human Resources Administration Drake Maynard to provide the Forum’s monthly Human Resources update. Maynard said that the University was waiting on action from the Legislature that will affect State Employees. Current budget bills await an “April Surprise,” meaning the large influx of tax revenue expected to hit State coffers April 15. The eventual size of this windfall will affect the amount of budget revenue available to the State, and in turn to the University.

In addition, the State is currently in negotiations on payments for its tax liability lawsuits, to the sum of $800 million. The State would like to pay this fee out over several fiscal years; if required to pay all of this money in FY 1999-2000, the State budget will look drastically different. There has been little other legislative activity affecting State Employees to this point in the session.

Maynard introduced the topic of SPA vacancies at the University. He noted that there are approximately 6,000 SPA positions at the University, and that since January 1998, Position Management had created 644 brand new positions. With only 63 positions being abolished over the same time span, over 575 new positions have needed to be filled in the last 15 months.

Position Management has filled over 3,000 positions in the last 18 months, or approximately half the current workforce. The University is spending a lot of money on Employee recruitment; $40,000 have been spent on special recruitment efforts, such as advertising on monster.com, trianglejobs.com, and targeted radio and newspaper advertising. Human Resources has also pushed for the University job listings to take a featured place on the University home page.

Human Resources is making recruiting trips to the University of Florida and Penn State University to talk with graduating computer science students. ATN and AIS have brought a significant number of these recruits to campus for second interviews. Human Resources is also advertising in publications issued by K-Mart and Wall Mart for all University vacancies, not just information technology positions.

Position management has raided the Human Resources budget to fund temporary positions to speed processing of recruits, job orders and departmental offers. No one knows when the local economy will cool down. Right now, over 10,500 people in the Triangle are looking for jobs, but over 12,000 vacancies are waiting to be filled. The University has received only 9,000 applications over the past year, compared with more than 15,000 applications two to three years ago. Maynard said that the University had recently reduced the number of vacancies to fewer than 500 for the first time in 15 months, although this number had risen again soon afterward.

Robert Thoma said that health benefits have gradually depreciated in the 14 years he had been a University Employee. He asked if the University had plans to maintain its level of Employee benefits. Maynard said that the University is keenly aware of the importance of benefits in competition with the multinational corporations located in Research Triangle Park. While the University is doing all it can, decisions about benefit levels and health care insurance are made at the State level, and are a function of legislative priorities. The University has been creative in offering a variety of benefits not available elsewhere.

Thoma noted the number of new facilities that have been placed on line in recent years without a correspondent increase in the number of staff. More work and more overtime add up to discourage Employees from staying at the University. Maynard said that a similar story exists for probably every department on campus. All departments have been asked to do more with less but these decisions have been necessitated by the Legislature, which probably will not be showering money on anyone this year.

The Chair was surprised at the number of positions the University had filled over the last year. Maynard said that most of the University’s voluntary separations came from Employees with less than two years of service (64%). Only 15% of all voluntary separations came from Employees with 5-10 years of service, and only 5% with 20 or more years of service. Around 25-30% of these voluntary separations came because of problems with pay; over half of all departures came as the result of opening advancement opportunities.

Maynard said that this statistic underlies one of the general difficulties with the University’s pay system. In the past, the University has been able to provide new Employees with regular pay increases, which tends to bind an Employee psychologically to their place of employment. However, in recent years, the University has been forced to use available monies to supplement offered salaries to new Employees, leaving a dearth of pay increases for the new Employees after their arrival on campus.

The Chair introduced Senior Director of Human Resources Services Nora Robbins to speak on the health insurance situation for staff Employees. Robbins had bad news for staff Employees concerning State health plan subscriber and term life insurance rates. As background, Robbins reported that claims to the State health plan rose 11% last year, whereas claims rose a mere 2% the year before. Analysts are projecting a premium hike of 33% this fall. The plan might also require an increase in the next biennium of 33-35%.

Robbins said that the State health plan has been a rich benefit to State Employees, particularly those needing high-end service, and clinical trials and procedures. She noted that the State plan subsidizes all individual coverage, but does not subsidize dependent coverage. As a result, only 30% of State Employees choose to cover dependents under the plan. Of the 30% who cover dependents, 15% of these cover dependents and children. From an actuarial point of view, it is good for a health plan to cover lots of children, as children are very healthy comparatively speaking. The average age of a State health plan subscriber is 42-43 years of age, while the general age of all Employees is in the mid-thirties and the average age of a Health Maintenance Organization participant is between 27-31 years of age.

The University expects the legislative debate on how to meet these increased costs to take place in May. Participants in this debate will be a number of parties with vested interests, including medical societies, pharmacists organizations, and State Employees. Robbins asked Forum Delagates to sound out their fellow Employees on their preferences about how to deal with this cost increase: will Employees accept a 35% increase in cost of coverage, or are they willing to accept less service or coverage? Will Employees be willing to tolerate a higher copayment for services and office visits? A number of tradeoffs are necessary to cut overall costs.

Robbins noted that the State Employees’ Association of North Carolina (SEANC) has lobbied for the State to cover the full cost of Employee coverage, as before. She asked how important it is to Employees for the State to cover the cost of dependent coverage, noting that the State plan needs to balance its profile among adults and children.

Robbins said that the State plan had experienced a 16% increase in costs related to hospitalization, an 11% increase in cost of surgical procedures, a 21% increase in pharmaceuticals, a 12% increase in the cost of office visits, and an 18% increase in the cost of lab claims.

Robbins passed out a history of the comprehensive major medical plan, noting that the plan had not experienced an increase in premiums since 1991. She said that in the fall of 1999, the University would end its two-year contract with its various Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs). HMOs have requested an increase in costs higher than the 7.5% increase cap stipulated in current contracts. These requests might mean that the Legislature will disqualify these HMOs from continuing their contracts, or the Legislature might allow other HMOs to bid to provide plans to Employees. In any event, health plan costs for all Employees will be going up very soon.

Robbins asked Forum Delegates to solicit feedback from Employees on their preferences. Employees with questions or comments can contact Robbins at Human Resources will remain in contact with the General Administration about the future of the State health plan.

In addition, Robbins reported proposed increases in costs of group life insurance. Administrators have proposed a 22% increase in group term rates. Robbins explained that all term insurance is “pay as you go.” However, Employees traditionally have been able to claim a residual if required to take disability. Due to an increase in Employees on disability claiming this residual, costs in the program have led to the increase in rates. Robbins noted that the University has retained the disability waiver on residuals for more than 40 years, but the choice will soon be an increase in rates or restrictions on the disability waiver.

An Employee asked if Human Resources had considered seeking a request for proposals from other health insurance companies. Robbins said that the University had worked for a long time with Prudential Life Insurance, and seemed certain that it could not find a better deal, although it would take the request for proposals idea under advisement. She noted that the University Insurance Committee had asked that this question be deferred until its September 1 meeting.

Mike Hawkins noted that the University had last reviewed its insurer in this area in 1994-95. He asked whether the University might do better to shop around for a better deal to preserve the disability waiver. Robbins said that the University had dealt with Prudential a long while and felt that the company was negotiating in good faith. She explained that those at the University who pay premiums for nine months and are then disabled can apply for a waiver of their premium and are in turn covered indefinitely. This clause has functioned to protect disabled Employees. The University has experienced a rise in disability retirements due to its aging workforce–disability in this case signifies being able no longer to teach or do research. This benefit is slightly richer than the Social Security disability benefit, which requires that a worker must be disabled from any work.

The Chair thanked Robbins for her comments. The Forum then took a five-minute “stretch break.”

Approval of the Minutes

The Chair called for a motion to approve the minutes of the March 5 meeting. Forum Assistant Matt Banks noted two corrections to the minutes. On page 5, a sentence should read, “Ron Penny, director of OSP, said that the Office will seek to fund the comprehensive compensation pay plan and to eliminate the sunset on the North Carolina Flex plan.” Secondly, Kathy Dutton is not involved in the administration of the elder-caregiver series.

Ken Litowsky moved that the minutes be approved as amended. Linda Drake seconded this motion, which was approved without opposition by the Forum.

 

Continuing Business

The Chair noted that a list of current committees had been included in the monthly agenda packet. She asked that members check this information over for accuracy.

The Chair confirmed that the Forum still did indeed wish to have a booth at the Employee Appreciation Fair in May. She asked for volunteers for a task force to organize the booth. Receiving no volunteers, the Chair said that she and the Forum Assistant would work to organize the booth, possibly with the assistance of the Executive Committee. She asked members to consider possible sources of prizes. In the past, the Forum has held a raffle to publicize its work, and to survey Employee sentiment on a variety of issues. Delegates will be required to work the booth for a half-hour on the day of the event.

The Chair directed members’ attention to the Forum Highlights page. She was proud of the list of accomplishments the Forum had achieved in the past year, and felt that the Forum had really affected Employee life on campus. She asked for comments on the content and layout of the page. Lacking these, she called for a motion to approve the page for distribution to campus Employees. Linda Drake made this motion, seconded by Mike Hawkins. The motion carried unanimously.

Chair’s Report

The Chair noted that the News & Notes carried the incorrect time for the outsourcing steering team meeting. The meeting will take place at 9 a.m., not 10:30 a.m. April 16 and will include printing services as well as the housekeeping services of housing.

The Executive Committee will meet with its counterparts of the North Carolina State Staff Senate in Raleigh Friday, April 9. The Chair asked Executive Committee members able to go to Raleigh to convene following the Forum meeting.

The Executive Committee hopes to take a decision on the sliding scale discussion for parking fees at its April 19 meeting.

Roger Patterson had made a presentation on University financial issues at the Executive Committee’s March meeting. The “Overview of University Budget Issues” handout from that meeting was included in the monthly agenda packet.

The Forum Office has produced a case statement on staff development issues for the upcoming University capital campaign. The statement has been sent to Jim Ramsey for his comments.

The University Insurance Committee has asked the Chair to make a presentation on the domestic partner benefits issue later in the month.

James Booth of the Students for an Environmentally Sustainable Campus group is tentatively scheduled to make a presentation to the Forum at the May 5 meeting. Also, Donna Warren of the Center for Public Service is also scheduled to make a special presentation to the group.

Claire Miller, Director of Training and Development, will attend the April 19 Executive Committee meeting to discuss faculty and high-level supervisory training. Employees with opinions on this subject are invited to attend.

Committee Reports

Bobbie Lesane, Chair of the Career Development Committee, reported that group’s minutes were on the front table that month. She thanked Norm Loewenthal and Ron Strauss for attending the group’s March meeting.

Joanne Smith, Chair of the Communications Committee, announced the group’s next meeting would take place April 19 at 10:30 a.m. in the Business School. Employees interested in serving on this committee should contact Smith at 2-3533 or .

Vicki Pineles said that the Employee Presentations Committee had set a date for the Spring Community Meeting, and had reserved the Hanes Art Center for the event. More details will be available soon.

Lynn Ray, Chair of the Nominating Committee, said that group is searching for additional members. Interested Employees should contact her at . The committee is now looking at the carryforward of absences from one year to the next and the possibility of special elections in Divisions 2 and 3.

Martha Barbour, Chair of the Personnel Issues Committee, said that group had held discussions on the traffic and parking issue. She said that the committee had formed study committees to research traffic and childcare issues, among other concerns. Barbour would report back later on what the study committees had been able to gather and accomplish. Barbour was delighted to report that a program has been entered for the committee to enter data from the non-exempt compensatory time survey. She thanked Peter Schledorn for his work in this area, but noted that this work takes a great deal of time.

LaEula Joyner had nothing to report from the Recognition & Awards Committee.

Dorothy Grant reported that the University Committee Assignments Committee is recruiting Employees to serve on various University committees. The committee is designing a form for University committee chairs to fill out and provide information on the time commitments and work content of these groups.

The Chair hoped to have a report from the University Priorities and Budget Committee in the next month.

In the absence of further discussion, the Chair called for a motion to adjourn. The meeting adjourned by acclamation at 11:02 a.m.

Respectfully submitted,

 

Matt Banks, Recording Secretary

Print Friendly, PDF & Email