January 16, 2007
Employee Forum Annual Retreat Agenda
Tuesday, January 16, 2007
Sunflower Room, Friday Center
|8:30-9:00 a.m.||Breakfast in Atrium Center|
|9:00-10:00 a.m.||Welcome & Business Meeting
|11:00-12:00 p.m.||Rotating Small Group Discussions with Miller, Kinnaird, and Insko
|12:15-1:15 p.m.||Lunch in Trillium Room and Selection of Executive Committee Divisional Representatives|
|1:15-1:45 p.m.||Committee Descriptions and Delegates’ Selection of Forum Committees|
|1:45-3:15 p.m.||Committee Breakouts, Initial Meeting to Establish Plans for the Year|
|3:15-3:30 p.m.||Afternoon Break in Atrium Center|
|3:30-4:30 p.m.||Committee Reports & Adjournment|
January 16, 2007
Don de Leaumont
“ = Ex-Officio
Chair Ernie Patterson welcomed the Employee Forum to its annual retreat, opening the meeting at 8:30 a.m. He recognized former Forum Chair Linwood Futrelle to say a few remarks. Futrelle spoke in praise of Associate Vice Chancellor Laurie Charest upon the occasion of her retirement later this month. He noted the increase in professionalism and access to Human Resources practices associated with her 17-year leadership of Human Resources. He also noted that Charest had been a long term friend of the Forum in high-level administrative discussions. He thanked Charest for all the work that she had done.
Charest then gave what would be her final Human Resources update for the Forum. She noted that the open enrollment period for the State Health Plan would take place from March 1-31 and would not include information usually accompanying enrollments such as costs to enrollees or conditions covered. She said that this situation was completely absurd and unprecedented, but the Legislature must approve the rates. She said that health care costs will rise along with plan rates, but no one knows exactly how high. Employees will have no basis for making a rational decision on enrollment as of now.
Secondly, Charest noted the very aggressive schedule set for research and social research career banding training. The training is set to end in lat e January. The job families covered include 1,000 Employees. The Office of State Personnel required additional changes after approval of the plan in November that the University must incorporate into its January training.
Thirdly, as part of the basic employment eligibility program, the University must verify status of all faculty, staff, and students hired through a federal program called BASIC. These verifications have gone relatively well to this point but have involved another large item of work providing relatively little benefit to the University.
Charest said that the search for her replacement had begun. In the interim, Clair Miller, senior director of Human Resources services, will act as the Forum liaison. Delegates can contact her at 2-5952 or at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Chair noted that many people are paid below the level specified under career banding. Charest said that the career program came without funding and has been a major issue in its implementation. The Chair thought that this fact had begun to affect morale in some areas.
Danny Knowles asked whether the basic types of health care coverage would stay with the new enrollment. Charest said changes would probably increase deductibles and co-payments. She said that Employees will not know the details of the plan until the Legislature gives formal approval, perhaps in July or as late as September.
John Heuer asked what Charest had heard concerning personnel flexibility. Charest said that the President’s Committee on Efficiency (PACE) had studied Human Resources and found that efficiencies could occur by leaving the State Personnel system. She agreed with that assessment.
David Brannigan asked whether the minority report to the University’s 2002 study on personnel flexibility had been published as part of the main report. The minority report made a strong argument against opting out of the State system. Charest did not recall if the report was still available on the Human Resources website. Brannigan asked that Charest look for and make the report available to the Employee Forum.
Tommy Griffin gave Charest a special thanks for her help to him personally during his time as a Forum chair and delegate. He would serve on the search committee for her replacement.
The Chair asked delegates to speak about the issues of most concern to them as the Forum enters 2007. Responses included career banding, worker justice, salary increases, parking fees, universal health care, career development, Forum unity, opportunity for clerical skills graduates, benefits, reducing waste, time and attendance, open communications, personnel flexibility, term life insurance, establishment of an Employee bill of rights, fighting departure from the State personnel system, collective bargaining, supervisor evaluations, accountability for administrators, EPA non-faculty concerns, and Employee recognition.
The Forum took a brief break. Following the break, the Chair introduced Congressman Brad Miller, State Senator Ellie Kinnaird, and State Representative Verla Insko. State Senator Bob Atwater appeared later in the meeting.
Congressman Miller discussed Democratic plans for the first 100 hours as a majority party which would include increasing the minimum wage, cutting student loan interest rates, funding stem cell research, and implementing ethics reform. He will work on the Financial Services committee, will chair the Oversight and Investigation subcommittee of the Science and Technology committee, and finally will serve without seniority accumulation on the Foreign Affairs committee.
Representative Verla Insko praised the selection of Representative Joe Hackney as Speaker of the House. She looked forward to implementing and improving upon last year’s ethics bill. She emphasized lifelong learning for people affected by the loss of manufacturing jobs and supported universal public education for 4 year olds. She will serve on the Education Oversight and Health Care committees. She supported universal health care, noting the large amount that private bureaucracies charge to administer the current system. She also supports creation of a high-risk insurance pool as a first step towards universal health care for North Carolinians. She thought that government has a role in making the market system work by creating real competition for informed consumers.
Senator Ellie Kinnaird said that she was dismayed when the UNC Health Care System removed its workers from the State personnel system and she did not want that to occur with the University system. She cited differences with UNC HCS including implementing a billing standard of detriment to many while paying 30% bonuses to administrators. She said that some people have had their homes taken away from them for failure to pay bills. She noted problems finding a real person to discuss billing problems with at the University.
Kinnaird noted last year’s substantial pay raise but said that the economy must hold to fund future pay raises. She noted that legislative pay has not increased since 1994. She cited the continuing funding problems plaguing the State health plan. She hoped that the State would eventually fund universal health care for its citizens.
Kinnaird noted that UNC-Chapel Hill had become a research institution that depends on federal money to support its activities. She also noted the role of the State’s community colleges, which now face a backlog of enrollees for health sciences and other important courses. She said that the budget was doing well but that would mean that the NC Citizens for Business and Industry would lobby this year for large tax cuts. She recalled that the State had given these tax cuts in the late 1990s but then faced severe budget problems when the economy turned sour.
Kinnaird will serve as co-chair of the Justice and Public Safety subcommittee of the Criminal Justice committee in the Senate. She urged increased spending on prevention and intervention rather than prison construction.
Attendees speculated as to whether the Google corporation would locate its new offices in North Carolina.
Delegates asked the assembled legislators to intervene in the March open enrollment period question. Marshall Dietz asked about attracting GM auto plants to North Carolina.
The Chair asked what plans for the federal budget could affect funding for University research. Miller thought that this year’s Congress would be more sympathetic to research than the previous one. Delegates asked about earmarks projects in the Congress and General Assembly. State Senator Atwater said that the General Assembly had changed the Lee Act to a tiered system to reward companies relocating to economically depressed areas. He recalled starting with the University in the School of Public Health.
David Brannigan asked Kinnaird and Insko their opinion of the Forum’s resolutions on collective bargaining. Insko said that traditionally North Carolina has been a states’ rights state that wants strong local control of public issues. Alan Moran noted that State employees are prohibited from entering into a contract procured by collective bargaining. Kinnaird said that North Carolina is a very anti-union state that sees organizations such as NC Citizens for Business and Industry hold sway. Any move to repeal the collective bargaining statute must attract people from across the State or it will not happen.
Steve Hutton asked if Miller could work for the federal bill that would have granted collective bargaining rights to police, fire, and first respondents. Miller said that management is required to meet and confer with public firefighter unions. Hutton also cited Representative Ross’ bill favoring collective bargaining rather than meet and confer for local law enforcement that has yet to leave committee.
Mike Hawkins asked about the representatives’ interaction with PACE. Kinnaird asked for an executive summary of the report.
Futrelle asked how to stop the federal government from pushing its expenses down to the local level. Miller discussed the movement of programs to the state and local levels in block grants.
Kinnaird raised the question of funding for the Iraq war. Miller discussed the Federalist papers’ stance on standing armies in light of President Bush’s “go-it-alone” stance on increasing troop levels in Iraq.
Heuer raised the possibility of impeachment. Miller said that he was familiar with impeachment arguments. Heuer said that the question also involved state issues given the amount spent and lives lost from North Carolina. Kinnaird said that North Carolina is a military friendly state that would not support impeachment. Insko criticized the company that flies out of North Carolina carrying arrested people to other countries to be tortured. She said that she would write the Governor to ask him to do something about this company’s activities.
Jane Majors asked about expanding the tuition waiver program to community college tuition. The Chair said that this was a platform issue of UNC System President Erskine Bowles. Kinnaird said that she had not heard about the issue previously.
Before going to lunch, the Chair asked delegates to choose their committee representatives. He also asked committees to discuss the PACE report as well as its request for suggestions to save money or accomplish work more efficiently. The Chair also noted that he, Chuck Brink, and David Brannigan serve on the UNC System Staff Assembly. That group has asked University to report community service done by its employees.
Representatives of the various committees reported on their goals and charges through the last year. After lunch, delegates selected their committees for the year. The committees disclosed their composition, meeting times, leadership and their plans for the new year.
In the absence of further discussion, the Forum adjourned by acclamation at 4:30 p.m.
Matt Banks, Recording Secretary