February 2, 2011
Employee Forum Agenda
February 2, 2011
9:15 a.m. .—-Meeting: Pleasants Family Assembly Room, Wilson Library
I. Call to Order
II. Welcome Guests & Members of the Press
III. Special Presentations
- Senator Ellie Kinnaird
- Representative Verla Insko
IV. Human Resources Update—Vice Chancellor Brenda Malone
V. Approval of January Minutes
VI. Old Business
VII. New Business
VIII. Forum Committee Reports
- Carolina Community Garden Advisory: Sarah Poteete
- Communications and Public Relations: Carrie Aldrich
- Compensation & Benefits: Dan Barmmer
- Education and Career Development:
- Legislative Action: Danny Nguyen
- Membership & Assignments: Myra Quick
- Recognition & Awards: Chris Meinecke
- Staff Relations, Policies & Practices: James Holman
- UNC System Staff Assembly: Chuck Brink
- Executive Committee: Jackie Overton
February 2, 2011 Employee Forum Minutes
Chair Jackie Overton called the meeting to order at 9:15 a.m. She welcomed Senator Eleanor Kinnaird and Representative Verla Insko to make remarks. She also welcomed the Forum’s Human Resources partners as well as University Gazette reporter Gary Moss. Senator Kinnaird noted that she had worked for the Library and the School of Pharmacy. She said that Democrats hold 19 of 50 seats in the Senate, meaning that they cannot pass legislation but they can protect gubernatorial vetoes. She noted arguments from the John Lock Foundation that the government should get rid of publicly financed elections and thousands of State workers. She said that in that case, productivity would grind to a halt and the government would face the burdens of paying severance and unemployment. She noted that employers had reduced their unemployment contributions when the economy was doing well, leading to today’s depleted unemployment fund. Senator Kinnaird also bemoaned the lack of women in the Senate, noting that when she started in the Senate there were seven women Senators and now there are only four women Senators.
John Gullo asked what the Forum could do. Senator Kinnaird said that meeting with representatives in their districts is very important. She noted that the tobacco settlement favored farmers who lobbied constantly in person for their share. Chuck Sockell asked where the majority of the cuts would come from. Senator Kinnaird recalled that the GOP had vowed not to raise taxes when they won the majority in the House and Senate. She said that the leadership may propose a premium on health care, or possibly redirect LEAF foundation money into the General Fund. The GOP ran on a platform of cutting State workers and cutting taxes. In response, Senator Kinnaird said that government should provide the needed services on which the for-profit sector cannot make a profit. She noted talk that the State will close museums and rest centers, among other institutions, to meet the budget. Sarah Poteete asked if there were any indication that the State will balance the budget by instituting pay cuts along a sliding scale rather than cutting jobs. Senator Kinnaird said that employee groups must play a part in presenting such a proposal to decisionmakers in Raleigh.
Representative Insko agreed with Senator Kinnaird. She noted that the Employee Forum was created to support activism. She cited a leadership void among State employees. She was committed to protecting State employees. Representative Insko noted her service on the Health and Human Services committee, which receives $3 in federal money for every $1 in State dollars. Cutting this area would have a dramatic effect on the mentally ill and the Medicaid budget. She anticipated that Smart Start and the University would be other pots of funds singled out for cuts. She knew of State employees who have been forced to apply for food stamps. She said that the electorate generally wants services without budget cuts. She urged listeners to network with those who are like minded. Representative Insko also noted that there is some money hidden away in the Medicaid budget given the increase in follow-up visits that has accompanied reimbursement decreases.
Representative Insko noted that six Democrats had voted for the GOP speaker in order to obtain something for their districts. She thought that the GOP would not move to reinstate the one cent sales tax, a move that she opposed as costing $1.3 billion to offset. She said unless the GOP experienced a change of heart, she would vote against the budget. Danny Nguyen asked if Representative Insko could update the Forum on other bills the General Assembly will consider. Representative Insko said that House Bill 2 requiring the Attorney General to bring suit on behalf of those forced to buy insurance under the federal health insurance bill. She called this bill a waste of time as it would be decided in the Supreme Court. However, she did not think that the Governor would veto the bill. She agreed with a bill to remove State Health plan oversight from the General Assembly, but perhaps not to the Department of Insurance. She personally would put the plan in the Health and Human Services division. She noted House Bill 1450 concerning the state retirement age, but felt more concern about a possible move to put the retirement system in 401(k) accounts in a defined contribution plan. House Bill 1450 would also raise the retirement age and cut longevity pay.
Carleta Long asked if the Governor, Senators, and Congress had received the same salary increases as State employees these last few years. Representative Insko said that State legislators make a base pay of $14,000, with $6,000 for expenses. They also receive a per diem of $100/a day while the Legislature is in session. State legislators have not received a pay increase since the 1960s, and few legislators can serve while struggling financially.
Charles Sockell asked about where the cuts would come from in 2011. Representative Insko thought that optional services like Medicaid, prescription drugs, mental health, and dental care would be cut, in addition to provider rates. She said that University budgets would be cut, as well as teacher assistants for K-3. Chris Meinecke asked what the Democrats would do differently. Representative Insko said that the Democrats would make cuts to deal with half the budget deficits and would raise taxes, such as raising the cigarette tax to the national average, keeping the temporary sales tax, and taxing “Cadillac” health plans. She noted that some Democrats do not want to raise taxes to avoid defeat. Chris Meinecke asked the economic impact of layoffs versus cutting salaries 1.5-4%. Representative Insko said that it would be less depressing to the economy to reduce salaries or furloughs. Marc ter Horst asked about the result of changes to the budget down the line. Representative Insko said that if the State does not educate its population it loses good students, graduate students, and professors in turn. She said that the UNC System has won the most grant monies in the nation but that professors must have good students with whom to work. She noted that House Speaker Tom Tillet has said that the Legislature will have its budget balanced by June 1 and adjourn by July 4. Paul Kimple asked about tort reform as an avenue for change. Representative Insko said that tort reform had had little impact in states that have approved it, with perhaps only a 1-2% factor of rising health care costs. Representative Insko said that the Legislature will likely pass a bill calling for a constitutional ban on homosexual marriage, an anti-bullying bill, and a voter ID bill. She thought that there was no reason to do the voter ID bill as there has been no evidence of pervasive voter fraud. Representative Insko invited members to mail on their questions. The Chair thanked Kinnaird and Insko for their remarks, and thanked James Holman for the idea to invite the legislators.
The Chair presented Vice Chancellor Brenda Malone to make the Forum’s customary Human Resources update. Malone thanked the Forum for the invitation to the June 8 community meeting. She noted that General Administration had appointed a new Vice President for Human Resources, William Fleming. She noted that UNC System President Tom Ross had visited the campus two weeks ago. Ross met with the Chair and Faculty Governance Chair McKay Coble.
Malone said that the University had released budget reduction targets and had instituted a hiring freeze. The first phase of cuts will be a 5% reduction effective July 1, with some layoff activity to take place. She reminded listeners that the Human Resources website contains a guide for managers and employees involved in a layoff situation. She also noted the presence of the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) and the Deer Oaks facility for those affected by the layoff situation. Malone reported that Human Resources had closed the Carolina Kids Camp in order to meet its budget reduction target. She noted that other camps have advertised more than normal to meet the overflow generated by the closing. Malone asked Associate Vice Chancellor Matt Brody to discuss the new requirement to report criminal convictions. Danny Nguyen asked if there is an effort to help managers implementing layoffs. Malone said that there are intricacies requiring consultation with Human Resources. She said that the intention is to play these situations close to the vest. She urged managers to be as respectful as they can and careful, while keeping people as informed as they can. Ter Horst asked how the University would manage furloughs as other campuses have chosen this option. Malone said that furlough savings are only one-time dollars. She said that furloughs are not an option that the University will be able to consider given the need for recurring dollar savings. Ter Horst asked whether salary reductions would be temporary or permanent, and would they affect retirement savings. Malone said that she had lived through salary reduction measures at another university. She said the key is how the plan would be designed. John Heuer asked if there had been any discussion of suspending the penalty for early retirement. Malone said that she had not heard of any plan. The Chair said that she had heard of early retirement being posed for faculty. Malone noted that there would be a cost attached to increasing early retirement buy-outs, as the University would not be able to fill these vacant positions. Chris Meinecke asked whether the hiring freeze affects searches in process. Malone said that if the search was in play prior to January 3 it can continue. All searches are frozen except for stated exceptions.
Brody recalled that he had visited the Forum Executive Committee, the Executive Committee of the Faculty Council, the Deans’ Council, and the Chancellor’s Cabinet to discuss the criminal conviction reporting policy. The new policy would require active faculty and staff to be obligated to report any criminal conviction in a court of law. The policy would align with the pre-employment responsibility to disclose criminal convictions. The University would say whether the employee would be barred from employment. Some criminal convictions do not involve violent crime and do not interfere with work, and so would not lead to termination. The University will look at criminal conduct as a safety issue, with violent, sexual, or stalking crimes gaining more attention. Selected employees could not hold their positions if convicted of embezzlement or theft. All employees must report convictions to Human Resources. The University has increased its focus on workplace safety by increasing pre-employment background checks, and this new policy is a part of that effort to increase public trust. Brody said that if an employee is convicted of a crime, they would not be automatically expelled. He offered to meet with the Executive Committee to provide a follow-up on tweaks to the plan, and he said the policy would move forward in late February. Nguyen asked how much this policy would cost Human Resources, and he asked whether it was best to divert money for this project at this time. Brody said that the money involved was not significant, but the potential for danger is far greater if the policy were not followed.
The Chair took a moment to acknowledge former Forum Chair John Heuer and Assistant Provost Lynn Williford. She invited a motion to approve the minutes of the January meeting. Jonathan Pletzke, Sandra O’Buckley and the Chair had amendments to the minutes. Chris Meinecke moved to accept the minutes as amended, seconded by Myra Quick. The minutes were approved as amended.
The Chair noted that payments for t-shirt orders were due that day. She noted that the Forum will participate in the Have a Heart food drive campaign. These efforts will go towards helping the NC School of Science and Math beat the Guinness Book of World Records record for food collected in one day. The Chair noted that Vice Chancellor Dick Mann would soon leave the University. She had received an appointment to the search committee for his replacement that would begin meeting February 28.
The Chair had asked Forum Assistant Matt Banks to help committee chairs get their reports into the Forum agendas each month. Sarah Poteete reported that the Community Garden Advisory committee had received $25,000 in one-time funds from the Chancellor’s office. She noted that work times for the garden are Wednesdays from 3-5 p.m. and Sundays from 4-6 p.m. This year, the garden grew around 3,000 pounds of vegetables. Ter Horst asked if the garden could use input from NC State’s hands-on experience. Poteete said that Clair Lorch had received input from the Home Extension Agency. The committee will also seek input on what kinds of vegetables to grow this coming year. She noted that Judith Cone had touted the garden as an example of innovation at Carolina.
Carrie Aldrich said that the Communications and Public Relations committee hoped to publish InTouch the following week. Dan Barmmer said that the Compensation & Benefits committee was studying furloughs and gas prices. The committee was also interested in how telecommuting and flexible scheduling were working out for the University since their implementation. The Chair noted that the Education and Career Development committee needs a chair. She said that the Forum has not been good stewards of the Staff Development fund as it had not spent money that had accumulated these past years. She said that the Forum would find good uses for the money this year. Danny Nguyen suggested that the Forum use the money to fund computer based training courses that had been discontinued in prior budget years. Nguyen said that the Legislative Action committee had met with the Compensation & Benefits committee and Benefits Consulting Director Ashley Nicklis to discuss raising the tuition waiver courses allowed from two to three. The discussion eventually came around to the possibility of adding spouses and children to this exemption. The committee is exploring writing a resolution on the topic. Malone said that this idea would need to come before the Human Resources Council. She said that the idea would contain a definite cost and thus would not likely to have legs in this budgetary climate. The Chair noted that tuition remission for spouses and children is a provision of the University’s new academic plan.
Chris Meinecke said that the Recognition & Awards committee would send out Peer Recognition nomination forms in early March with a deadline of April 15. The program’s ceremony will take place in early June. James Holman said that the Staff Relations, Policies, and Practices committee had suggested publication of the University’s layoff policies in InTouch. Holman also noted the decision of the University Insurance committee to end payroll deductions for employees. Malone said that the layoff policy is rather large and available to employees via other means. She said that the University could help employees get insurance policies on their own. The committee decided to discontinue the payroll deductions given that only 100 or so people use the service. The Chair noted that most insurance policies will offer an option to deduct premiums on a monthly basis from one’s bank account. Holman also said that the committee was working on a resolution for next month’s meeting.
The Chair reported that UNC System Staff Assembly representative Chuck Brink was out with rotator cuff surgery. She noted that the recent meeting of the Assembly had seen a discussion of furloughs, buyouts and budget cuts. She noted an interesting proposal by Professor John Sanders, former director of the Institute of Government, that the State cut salaries for all employees in order to prevent layoffs. Sanders will be the guest of the Executive Committee at its February 15 meeting. The committee will consider bylaws revisions after the conversation with Sanders.
Provost Bruce Carney will report on Carolina Counts efforts in his area and Wayne Blair and Laurie Mesibov of the Ombuds office will make an annual report in March. The Chair hoped that the Forum could invite other legislators to speak at future meetings.
In the absence of further discussion, the meeting adjourned at 11:14 a.m.
Matt Banks, Recording Secretary