July 7, 2005
Agenda — July 7, 2005
9:30 a.m.—-Meeting: Pleasants Family Assembly Room
I. Call to Order
II. Welcome Guests & Members of the Press
III. Opening Remarks
IV. Special Presentation: Shelley Green on Employee Appreciation Week
V. Human Resources Update
• Laurie Charest, Associate Vice Chancellor for Human Resources
VI. Chair’s Report, Executive Committee (Tommy Griffin) & Committee Reports
• Orientation: Meredith Clason
• Personnel Issues: David Brannigan
• University Assignments: Tom Arnel
• Career Development: Leon Hamlett
• Communications: Brian White
–> Forum Newsletter
• Community Affairs, Recognition and Awards: Debra Galvin
• Employee Presentations: Ernie Patterson
• Nominating: Patty Prentice
–> Forum Elections
VIII. Old Business
• Response from Chancellor Moeser concerning Forum Guidelines Revisions
IX. Stretch Time
XI. “Around the Room”/Employee Presentations
XII. Task Force/University Committee Reports
July 6, 2005 Forum Minutes (Draft)
Chair Tommy Griffin called the meeting to order at 9:38 a.m. He welcomed assorted guests and members of the press. (Notes lost)
Chuck Brink thanked the Forum for its condolence bouquet marking the passing of his father.
The Chair welcomed Associate Vice Chancellor Laurie Charest to present the Forum’s monthly Human Resources update.
Charest said that Employees can now contribute to the emergency loan program through the North Carolina Combined Campaign, notably through payroll deduction.
Charest said that the Legislature had approved a continuing resolution to keep State Government solvent through July 20. She said that if budget negotiations drag on more continuing resolutions might become necessary.
Concerning State Employee raises, the State Senate had proposed a minimum $500/year or 2% raise and the House has proposed a flat $1086/year raise. Both versions propose a new minimum salary of $20,112 for State Employees. Notably, the Senate bill provides full funding for these increases, whereas the House bill requires the University System to find dollars to support all proposed pay increases. The House bill will fully fund increases for other State agencies.
The Senate budget would increase State Health plan premiums while decreasing benefits. The House budget would increase premiums while maintaining a stable level of benefits. Charest said that neither situation is good news for State Employees.
Legislators have introduced a bill providing immediate in-state residency for State Employees working at State agencies. This bill would also expand the tuition waiver program to cover community college classes.
Another bill affects Employees soon planning to retire. This bill would prohibit recently retired employees from working for the State six months after having retired. This bill would affect many retired employees who now work part-time for the State in their old positions. The bill would take effect July 1.
Charest urged University Employees considering retirement and re-employment to follow this bill closely. The impetus for the bill has come from teachers retiring and coming back quickly to work for full pay as contract employees without contributing to the retirement system. Charest said that this bill would hurt University operations as a vast store of experienced workers maintain their relationship with the University on just this basis.
Keith Fogleman noted that retiring employees might find outside employment and just leave State service altogether if this bill is approved.
Camilla Crampton asked how the return of retired workers to contract service endangers the State retirement system. Charest said that the practice encourages teachers to retire at a younger age, meaning that they do not contribute to the State retirement system for as many years over the course of their working lives. She said that independent studies have found that workers will retire at age 55 versus age 60 if all other factors remain the same. Crampton noted that teachers are exempt from State earnings ceilings. Charest said that the State had eliminated these earnings ceilings for teachers to alleviate teacher shortages. She said that the issue is not a simple one.
Katherine Graves recalled her experience with working for a county education system at which she received salary supplements and benefits. Charest said that the system now provides employees incentives to retire given the annual lack of raises and declining benefits.. The overall affect of the change could be to cut drastically into the overall experience and skill-set of State employees.
Tom Arnel asked the current status of the pilot health program. Charest said that she would participate in a conference call with the Leslie Winner and other task force initiative members. She reported that the new State Health plan director had indicated to the task force that he would not stand in the way of the task force’s work. She said that the task force’s work might even encourage the State Plan to create its own preferred provider organization (PPO).
Bradley Bone asked if the UNC Office of the President website is updated reasonably often. Charest said that much depends on the pace of bill changes but said that the page is reasonably up to date. Graves said that Employees could go to http://hr.unc.edu for updates on the health care initiative.
Ernie Patterson asked about reports that the University would both hold classes and allow a holiday for this Labor Day. Charest said that indeed students will attend classes during Labor Day due to the needs of the class calendar. She said that Human Resources Facilitators should have information about this plan. Staff working this time should receive 1.5 time holiday pay plus an equal time off. Many offices will be closed during Labor Day but those offices which directly support the University’s academic mission will be open. If a department says that it needs one person to staff their offices during Labor Day, that person is considered required to work the holiday and should receive holiday pay and equal time off.
Patterson asked if students have notice that they will attend class on Labor Day. Charest said that the academic calendar indicates that classes are open. She said that the change would take place for this year only and was a result of trying to coordinate calendars with Duke University for the Robertson Scholars program.
Noting the hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico, Charest reviewed the University’s adverse weather procedures. She emphasized that Employees should consider announcements about the status of the University, not State Government as a whole. In conditions 1 & 2, Employees can choose whether or not to attend work as adverse weather leave. However, Employees must make up lost hours within twelve months of taking the leave, if the University is not closed. Chuck Brink noted recent changes with stand-by pay for adverse weather in Facilities Services.
Matt Banks asked how many Employees had received admission for the University’s part-time degree program. Charest said that eleven employees have received admission and would begin classes in the fall.
Jill Hartman said that the clerical skills program had apparently admitted then rejected a Grounds worker applying due to too many applicants having been admitted. Charest asked to discuss this Employee’s particular situation following the meeting. She said that there had been an intensive effort to recruit enrollees from Grounds, Housekeeping and other Facilities Services divisions.
Tom Arnel suggested that the Legislature had plans to introduce a tuition waiver bill for classes beyond work-related classes. Katherine Graves suggested that Human Resources include a direct link to the clerical skills and other educational assistance programs on the Human Resources website.
The Chair said that the Executive Committee had discussed the Chancellor’s response to the Forum’s proposed Guidelines revisions. The committee also discussed creating an award for Employees earning 25, 30, 35 or more years of service beyond attendance at the annual 20-year banquet. The Chair said that the committee had participated in writing over 2,000 postcards to State legislators on salary increases and UNC health care programs. Bradley Bone asked if the Chair had mailed or hand-delivered the postcards, and the Chair said that he had mailed them.
Dave Brannigan, chair of the Personnel Issues committee, said that group had considered activities surrounding John Edwards’ address at the fall community meeting. The committee hoped to make this event an interactive affair between University Employees and the head of the Center for Work, Poverty and Opportunity.
In June, the committee had also met with Dennis Press of Information Technology Services and Matt Brody of Human Resources to discuss time and attendance policy monitoring programs. He said that this meeting was an opening dialogue on the subject and the committee had heard it would be years before the University implemented a software program to monitor time and attendance.. He invited listeners with questions about the proposal to submit them to the Personnel Issues committee or directly to Press or Brody.
Tom Arnel, chair of the University Assignments committee, said that group had received three other applications for University committee service. Katherine Graves said that the Career Development committee had not met in three months.
Brian White, chair of the Communications committee, said the group had published InTouch the previous week and would publish its University Gazette insert July 20. The committee will not produce an August issue. White noted that Penny Ward had resigned from the Forum and asked other Forum members to consider Communications committee service. The Chair noted that the Forum had received a cease and desist letter for the use of InTouch as the title of its monthly newsletter from InTouch Ministries in Georgia. He had forwarded this letter to University Counsel’s office for their response.
Debra Galvin, chair of the Community Affairs, Recognition & Awards committee, said that group had selected the Shining Heels recipients for this year and had contacted the University Gazette to secure publication of the winning nominees. Employees have until August 19 to submit peer recognition forms.
Ernie Patterson, chair of the Employee Presentations committee, said that group hoped to invite John Edwards to participate in a lunch time discussion following the fall community meeting. He was not yet able to set a date or location for the meeting.
Patty Prentice, chair of the Nominating committee, said that group had determined the distribution of delegates among the various electoral divisions for the 2005 delegate elections. The Forum will increase its membership to 60 delegates this year with no alternates, necessitating a larger election of delegates in this year’s election.
At this point the Forum took a five minute stretch break.
The Chair asked for a motion to approve the April 7 and June 1 Forum meeting minutes. Matt Banks reported that Brian White had forwarded to him a number of grammatical errors in these minutes and pledged to make these corrections for the record. Chuck Brink moved to accept the minutes as amended, seconded by Keith Fogleman. The motion was approved by acclamation.
The Chair welcomed University ombudspeople Wayne Blair and Laurie Mesibov to speak on the work of their office. Blair said that more people are beginning to visit and contact the ombudsoffice, located on the first floor of 134 East Franklin Street. Blair said that he discourages Employees from contacting the office via e-mail as this method is not a fully guaranteed confidential method of contact. Mesibov noted the great number of applications to work in the ombudsoffice. She said that the office should select its new administrative assistant by the end of the month.
David Brannigan asked if Blair and Mesibov still planned to make an accounting or assessment of the office’s activities for the year. Blair said that the office would make an annual report on aggregated detail but would work to conceal personal details in the report. Mesibov said that the office was still working to build credibility with Employees around campus as a reliable and confidential source of information. Brannigan hoped to formalize a relationship between the office and the committee and to obtain information about the number and type of referrals from various departments.
Blair said that the office had already begun to see trends in referrals but said that publicly reporting these trends would be unfair to departments needing more time to improve areas of concern. Brannigan suggested that at some point the office reveal the total number of concerns broken down by category of problem. Mike McQuown suggested that the office also produce data on the types of problems and the outcomes of consultations.
Katherine Graves said that only half of the Employees in her area had heard of the ombudsoffice. Blair said that the office was working to complete its website and link to the Provost’s Office page. Additionally, the office will soon distribute a brochure describing its services. Graves suggested sending out smaller, less elaborate fliers to supplement these publicity efforts. She also suggested that the ombudsofficials attend departmental staff meetings. Blair offered to speak with anyone anywhere he was invited.
Bradley Bone noted that the ombudsoffice does not speak with supervisors without a client’s permission. Would the office ever go higher up on the chain to discuss a client’s concern? Blair said that the office does not keep records but keeps data in aggregated form. He said that speaking with a dean or director about a problem can be both too removed and too close to the situation and would not do so without a client’s permission.
Cathy Rogers said that talking about a trend for grievances without linking a group of individuals to the problem was very frustrating.
Graves suggested that the ombudsoffice make certain that the administrative assistant sign a confidentiality agreement.. Blair said this would occur. Anthony Eubanks asked the office’s phone number. Blair responded that the number is 843-8204. He also apologized for problems with the office’s e-mail address. The firstname.lastname@example.org address is now completely functional.
Kirk McNaughton, while noting the ombudsoffice’s confidentiality concerns, asked whether the office would truly get involved in public discussions after the manner of ombudsmen generally. It was noted that the office often serves a counseling function to Employees who want to share their concerns but do not want outside assistance. Sometimes an employee will wait until they leave employment entirely before they ask the ombudsoffice to take a public role in pursuing a problem. Mesibov said that the office often coaches Employees how to hold a meeting with a supervisor and present a problem through a conversation. Mesibov said that the office must pursue what is most helpful to the Employee.
McNaughton asked whether the office would go public to handle a concern at some point. Blair said that Employees can pursue a formal route for grievances and affirmative action. Employees will often use the ombudsoffice to think through their options and find their best course of action, either the formal route or some other course. Mesibov said that going public on a subject can help expand a conversation, but not beyond.
The Chair suggested that the ombudsoffice secure a booth at the upcoming Employee Appreciation event to increase their public profile.
The Chair read a June 20 letter from Chancellor Moeser advising a different wording for its proposed Guidelines revision. The Chancellor’s proposed revision of the Forum’s revised Guidelines Section II. Purpose (clause 4) read: “4) Advise the Chancellor on issues related to the needs and working conditions of University Employees so that he/she can represent these needs to the University of North Carolina Office of the President or the North Carolina General Assembly, as appropriate.” The Chancellor’s letter cited UNC Policy Manual: 300.3.2 Regulation on Establishing Consultative Bodies Representing Staff Employees and Improving SPA Grievance Systems and the “advisory capacity” of the Forum as the basis for this recommendation.
Ernie Patterson moved that the Forum suspend its rules and implement the Chancellor’s proposed revision on second reading. Camilla Crampton seconded this motion.
The Chair noted that the Chancellor’s office had forwarded Forum resolutions on pay and health insurance matters directly to the Office of the President and various State legislators. He did not think that this proposed revision restricted the Forum’s range of motion to work through the Chancellor to accomplish its goals.
Ernie Patterson said that approval of this proposal was necessary to insure the establishment of new Guidelines in time for the election of a 60 delegate Forum for 2006. Brenda Denzler asked what the Forum was giving up if it agreed to this change. Patterson said that following the Office of the President’s rules in this matter was acceptable given the major changes under consideration.
Kirk McNaughton noted the earlier revision would have changed the Forum’s mission as a representative body to advise the Chancellor. The Chair said that he did not intend to leave out the Chancellor’s office from the Guidelines section on the Forum’s purpose.
Kirk McNaughton proposed retaining the Forum’s earlier clause 4 while retaining the Chancellor’s proposal as clause 5. Patterson thought that the two conflicted and so would involve further discussion. He thought the Forum should agree with the Chancellor’s proposal and move on. Brian White agreed with Patterson, saying that the Forum still retain a range of motion to press for changes favorable to University Employees. Crampton agreed with Patterson also, saying that the Chancellor’s office is the only conduit out to communicate with the Office of the President and the General Assembly.
The question was called and discussion ended by acclamation. Twenty delegates voted to consider the resolution on second reading, with two opposing and one abstaining. The Forum then moved to approve the Chancellor’s recommendation by majority vote on second reading.
The Chair noted that President Broad had asked Office of the President counsel Leslie Winner to discuss the possible creation of a System-wide Staff Assembly with members of various staff organizations such as himself.
The Provost/Vice Chancellor meeting with Forum delegates will take place July 7 at 10 a.m. in 307 South Building. He also invited delegates to attend the monthly video conference with various state representatives Friday, July 8 at 11:30 a.m.
The Chair invited delegates to comment on various items of concern in an “around the room” format.
Cathy Rogers asked if the $1086 proposed pay raise would be a salary increase or a one-time bonus. Laurie Charest said that both the House and Senate would add their increases to base pay packages, raising the pay ceilings for Employees by this set amount.
Keith Fogleman praised Human Resources for their competent, organized and patient handling of his on-line employment application. He said that the official he encountered was very busy but never aggravated as she dealt with his request.
Camilla Crampton asked whether UNC Health Care System employees still contribute to State benefits and retirement programs. Charest said that these employees are not in the same compensation system as UNC Employees and are not subject to the rules of the SPA system. Crampton wondered whether this was a good or a bad thing. Charest pointed out that HCS employees have received a number of special in-range salary adjustments in recent years.
Bradley Bone noted that with increasing health care premiums a number of Employees may choose to enroll in the Blue Advantage program. He asked if a change in family status would allow an Employee to return back to the State plan if needed. Charest said that this situation was one of the reasons the State plan was in so much trouble. Generally, healthy families will enroll in Blue Advantage for the lower premiums. Then, if their health becomes poor, Blue Advantage will drop their coverage, sending them back to the State plan. She said that Employees with pre-existing conditions would still receive coverage under the State plan. Keith Fogleman recalled a preacher friend of his who had been dropped from coverage after sixteen years of paying premiums.
The Chair asked Forum delegates to consider joining a refreshments subcommittee to provide coffee and tea before each meeting. He said that this subcommittee would handle purchasing and preparation of coffee, tea and pastries before each meeting, perhaps with Forum coffee pots. He explicitly excluded the Forum Assistant from responsibility for these activities. Camilla Crampton thought this would be a very good idea for monthly meetings.
In the absence of further discussion, the meeting adjourned at 11:20 a.m.
Matt Banks, Recording Secretary