Employee Forum Agenda — June 7, 2006

9:15 a.m.—Meeting: Wilson Library Lobby Pleasants Family Assembly Room

I.            Call to Order

II.          Welcome Guests & Members of the Press

III.         Opening Remarks

    • Vice Chancellor for Finance and Administration Nancy Suttenfield

IV.      Special Presentations

    • Ombudsman Wayne Blair with his Office’s Annual Report

V.          Human Resources Update—Laurie Charest

VI.         Stretch Time

VII.        Minutes

VIII.       Old Business

IX.         New Business

    • Resolution 06-04 Concerning the Implementation of a Textbook Assistance Program for UNC-Chapel Hill Employees
    • Resolution 06-05 Concerning the Employee Forum Supporting Implementation of a Clerical Skills Internship Program

X.           Employee Presentations or Questions

XI.         Forum Committee Reports

  • Communications and Public Relations: John Heuer
    • Forum Newsletter
  • Community Affairs, Recognition, Awards and Outreach: Cathy Rogers
  • Compensation and Wages:  Alan Moran
  • Education and Career Development: Chuck Brink
  • Health Benefits:  Greg Alvord
  • Legislative Action:  Camilla Crampton
  • Membership and Assignments:  Gloria Farrar
  • Staff Relations, Policies and Practices: David Brannigan

XII.        Chair’s Report (Executive Committee):  Ernie Patterson

XIII.       Task Force/University Committee Reports

  • Board of Trustees Finance Committee—Ernie Patterson
  • University Priorities and Budget Advisory Committee—Ernie Patterson

XIV.       Announcements/Questions

XV.        “Go Around the Room”:  A Chance for Attendees to Share the Issue Most on their Minds

XIV.       Adjournment

MINUTES

 

June 7, 2006 Minutes

 

Chair Ernie Patterson called the meeting to order at 9:20 a.m. and welcomed new members Eric Smith and Kittie Allen.  He also recognized members of the press Lee Kennedy and Jeanne Schuman.  He encouraged listeners to contact members of the General Assembly to express their concerns.  He noted that the Forum had sent out an e-mail asking people to share their stories concerning the State health plan.

The Chair introduced Wayne Blair and Laurie Mesibov of the Ombuds office regarding that office’s annual report.  Blair said that the office had decided to do a verbal as well as written annual report.  He invited listeners to ask questions about any aspect of the report.  He noted that the office had officially begun work on May 2, 2005.

Blair said that the office had handled about 275-280 cases in its first year.  A case will typically require 3-5 meetings with Employees per case.  A quarter of this caseload dealt with faculty.  Blair said that he could not mention details of individual cases due to confidentiality concerns.  Fifty percent of the caseload concerned SPA Employee issues with another one quarter addressing EPA non-faculty issues.  Blair said that the original visitor to the ombudsoffice determines how the case is classified.

David Brannigan asked if the office sorts issues by employment divisions.  Blair said that he would have to bypass this question as it would be unfair to detail which departments and schools have the most complaints.  Brannigan said that he understood why Blair would not want to discuss this question.  Mesibov said that a large number of referrals from a particular department might be a sign of strength and health.

Brannigan asked if information will be available by employment division.  Blair said that as the office tracks trends of referrals, it will meet with division heads to post publicly whether a particular division has cases.  Mesibov said that a reason against posting these tracked figures would be the possibility that division heads would advise against referring their concerns to the ombudsoffice.  Blair said also that because people work in a division does not necessarily mean that the issue may be with that division.  For example, a person working in Facilities Services may not have received their paycheck on time.  The issue would be classified as originating with Facilities Services but the need to solve the problem would lie elsewhere.

Brenda Denzler asked what type of issues the ombudsoffice found within the three classifications of faculty, SPA and EPA non-faculty.  Blair said that many issues are very similar regarding problems between people.  Other issues are very specific, notably tenure concerns for faculty.  Blair said that issues related to groups of people in divisions or departments are different and more complicated than disputes involving individuals.

Blair said that when the ombudsoffice receives a group complaint, it invites those involved to meet with the office individually.  Group-type concerns typically take longer to resolve.

Mike McQuown asked Blair if he could provide a hypothetical example.  Blair said that within a group of Employees, two people might not get along and other members of the group will align with one side or another.  A third part of the group does not want to be part of either clique.  Sometimes, people will lose sight of the original issue and cannot get their jobs done.  The conflict can lead to and extraordinarily stressful work situation with relations becoming unwieldy and out of control.

Brannigan asked if groups are taking steps to address these questions if it might reflect institutional or structural problems.  Blair said that some problems are systemic and cause the group to come forward.  Much depends on the particular challenge and the complexity of the group.  On the flip side, it takes a lot for people as a group to talk about an issue.  He said that it is a positive sign that people recognize and work to solve a problem.  Blair thought that bringing a concern forward can be a sign of commitment to an organization, division, department or area.  He said that people want to do a good job and do not want to come to the office to face conflict.  He said that it takes a lot of commitment to meet before and after work to address these questions.

Steve Hutton asked if the ombudsoffice was seeing deficiencies in training for managers and policymakers.  Blair asked Hutton to hold that thought for later in the presentation.  McQuown asked if the ombudsoffice will provide more specific information about where these problems originate sometime later in the future.  Blair said that some Employees show a professional immaturity in not understanding the appropriate way to manage or lead a team or area.  By professional immaturity, Blair said that he did not mean youth so much as lack of understanding.

As an example, Blair noted that an Employee who told their supervisor an idea that the supervisor did not implement may turn to demanding the idea in front of staff meetings or feeling that the supervisor hates you.  Blair said that the supervisor does not actually hate this person just because he does not implement the idea.  Similarly, an Employee who wants to take a vacation must realize that the time of the vacation is subject to supervisor approval.  That Employee might have to take the vacation a month later than they would prefer given work responsibilities.

Additionally, Blair cited the use of e-mail as a source of concern.  He noted that an Employee can forget that an e-mail often goes to everyone and that it can have a significant, unforeseen impact.  Blair cautioned listeners not to send e-mail when angry as it can create an image of the sender that is not appropriate.

Blair also noted that managers will not think whether an Employee is entitled to a request under law or University policy.  The first thing out of their mouth can be ‘no,’ which becomes a problem when the required answer is ‘yes.’

Mesibov noted that a catalyst for ombudsoffice referrals arises when departments are in a time of transition, either with a new supervisor or moving into new physical space.  Quieter issues can become more problematic during times of transition.

Blair said that discussing inappropriate issues in a broad group such as flippant comments regarding confidential concerns has led to problems.  Some supervisors have not understood the confidential role of the manager.

In other cases, Employees simply do not like each other and the ombudsoffice works to get them talking to each other.  In these situations, there is not the luxury of simply ignoring the problem.

Regarding supervisor training, Blair said that his office was seeing a level of training.  He noted that some managers lack confidence in themselves and feel the need to show that they are in control.  If they do not know the answer to a question, they will say, “don’t ask me that,” rather than “let me find out.”

Still other issues are systemic, for example, whether an Employee is paid on time or not.  The Employee who has not been paid on time does not care where the blame lies but rather wants to get paid and indeed by law must get paid on time.

Ellen Hill asked why an Employee would bring this kind of question to the ombudsoffice.  Blair said that sometimes an Employee does not know where to go to resolve a problem.  Mesibov said that no issue is too big or too small if it is important to you.  The office conducts a range of activities done by formal mediations and other methods.  She said that people have been wonderfully receptive and willing to give the ombudsoffice approach a chance.

McQuown asked that the ombudsoffice give a report two years from now indicating growth or shrinkage of particular problems.  Blair said that the ombudsoffice was working to introduce software to generate these types of reports.

Denzler asked if the office had measured a direct impact of the omdusoffice in positively improving areas of concern related to the grievance process.  Blair said that the office is not tracking issues related to the grievance process.  The ombudsoffice does walk through with Employees the grievance process with those considering this step.  Blair would need to speak with Martha Fowler about cross-referencing these concerns.  Mesibov said that there are some situations in which the office could take credit to help resolve situations that could have been grievances but it would be difficult to show an impact on the entire campus.  Blair added that many areas do not want a formal process but rather want to resolve the concern quickly and quietly.  Mesibov added that many Employees have said that they are glad the office is present and working.

John Heuer asked if the office had explored the training opportunities available with Employees who are showing signs of ‘professional immaturity.’  Blair said that he had talked with Human Resources about how best to approach this question.  Some people want to sit down and strategize about how to address questions while others are not willing to discuss the concern.

A continuing question remains how to convince supervisors to attend supervisor training.  McQuown said that this training should be a requirement for the job.  Denzler said that many professions expect credentials to be updated every year.  She said that a requirement for continuing supervisor training should be part of University policy.  Blair said that some Employees, even those supervised, do not know how to ‘manage up,’ to manage one’s supervisor.  He asked what one might do to contribute to conflict.  He noted that some people are surprised when shown how their actions might have contributed to conflict and how they have been immature in managing their own supervisor.

Keith Fogleman asked how supervisors who do not have the necessary training in this area are  hired to be supervisors.  Blair said that some managers become supervisors because they know a lot about the work that they do.  They can become supervisors by default, in essence the last person standing.  These people need more skill sets to manage people.  Blair said that managing people is difficult because of the different personalities involved.  Mesibov said that she and Blair are optimists about working on problems, but there will always be issues with possibilities of hostility.

Mesibov recalled that she had told Chancellor Moeser her goal was to create the leading ombuds program.  She noted that Victoria Dowd had joined the office this year and had been a sensational addition to the office.

 

Human Resources Update

Vicki Bradley presented the Human Resources update in Laurie Charest’s absence.  She noted that the University had completed its spring blood drive, the largest single-day, single-site blood drive on the east coast.  She said that the event went extremely smoothly with more Red Cross volunteers than before.

Employees must choose a State Health plan option by June 30 of this year.  Human Resources anticipates receiving 5,000 forms before June 30.  Bradley asked that Employees submit their forms as soon as possible.  Jackie Kylander noted that UNC Health Care, Family Practice and UNC Physicians are part of the PPO option.  Bradley advised that Employees check with their doctors and specialists to insure that they are part of the PPO options.  Human Resources will hold further information sessions on the plan June 14 at the Friday Center and June 15 at the Student Union.

McQuown confirmed that Employees who do nothing are automatically enrolled in the Comprehensive Major Medical plan, not the PPO options.  Bradley said this was the case, but asked that Employees desiring to stay with the default plan send in a waiver indicating their choice.  Anthony Eubanks asked where Employees could get these forms and Bradley said that Employees should have received a mailed form.  If not, they can phone their Human Resources generalist.

Ellen Hill said that on the State plan website, nothing distinguishes PPO option health providers from those covered by the default comprehensive plan.  Bradley said that Hill might want to check the PPO branch of the website and to call the particular doctor to insure coverage.

David Brannigan said that he had sent an e-mail to Elaine Phelps asking about information sessions for groundskeepers.  Jim Alty said that there had been a number established for housekeepers but not for groundskeepers.  Bradley said that she would check with Phelps about establishing an extra session.  Jill Hartman said that Phelps could coordinate this session with her.

Kittie Allen asked if Human Resources could send out a memo explaining the procedures for charging for mammograms.  Bradley said that this information was on the FAQs page for the PPO.  Allen noted that if one has a mammogram and additional tests on the same day, one must meet a deductible.  However, if one has the mammogram and the other procedures on two separate days, one must pay the copayment.  She encouraged Human Resources to communicate this information so that Employees know of this problem.

Liz Crowley added that Employees with internet access can look at the current and previous issues of InTouch for direct links to UNC Human Resources’ information and the State health plan site.  There is also a link directly to the waiver form.

Bradley reported that the University will now offer a new 401(k) Roth option for Employees.  The Roth option differs from the standard 401(k) or 403(b) option as contributions are made on an after-tax basis but interest accrues tax-free as long as the participant withdraws after age 59 and a half and has been with the plan at least five years.  Crowley asked if Employees could roll over their current 401(k)s into the new Roth option.  Bradley said that she would get back to Crowley about this option.  Denzler confirmed that this information is available on the Human Resources website.

Bradley reported that the University had enacted the Employee Forum’s recommendation that the educational assistance program reimbursement be raised from $350 to $500.  This change became effective May 1.

The state Senate has recommended a 5% increase for SPA Employees and a 6% plus 2% non-recurring bonus for EPA employees.   There is a bill under discussion that would increase the number of tuition waived classes available to Employees from two to three a year.

There is another bill under discussion that would change the reemployment of retirees.  This bill would allow 60-year old employees with 25 years of service or 65-year-old employees with five years of service return with no break in their service.  Sixty-five percent of compensation would be limited unless for a fixed period of no more than six months preceded by six months of active service.  This change would allow the University to continue with its phased retirement program.  The key to this bill is the requirement that it must accommodate all state agencies, including teachers who have a two month break during the summer.  The bill numbers for this change are H1910 and S1474.

Bradley said that another bill offered would change the eligibility for retiree medical benefits to impose a graduated eligibility scale, with full eligibility requiring twenty years of service.  This change would only affect incoming, not current employees.

 

The Chair asked for a motion to approve the minutes.  Chuck Brink noted that the discussion of the internship resolution did not come back to the Forum for a second reading.

 

At this point, the Forum took a five-minute stretch break.

 

Chuck Brink introduced a resolution on first reading concerning funds for textbooks.  He read the resolution.  He said that the $2500 figure was designed to help 25 people.  The first 25 people to apply for funds would receive them as written.  Jackie Kylander worried about the potential for abuse of the program given that people could buy their book then turn it back in later.  The Chair suggested that one receive a reimbursement for the book upon successfully completing the course.  Brink said that he would ask Leslie Strom to respond to the legality of the question as well as whether the reimbursement program would create an additional tax burden for those receiving the reimbursement.

Brink said that he wished to help as many people as possible through the program to promote staff development.  Ellen Hill suggested that Employees take the course then turn their books into the Forum at the end of each semester.  Kylander confirmed that these proposals would not touch the principal of the staff development fund, which currently earns $15-17,000 a year.  As of now, over $82,000 is waiting to be used.  Money drawn by the tuition assistance program hardly ever draws from the staff development fund, instead using dedicated state funds for this purpose.

McQuown suggested that the fourth line of the resolution add “up to” $100.  Jane Majors thought that this change was already apparent by implication.  The Forum agreed to defer further discussion until second reading next month.

Brink read resolution 06-05 concerning an internship program for clerical skills graduates.  The Education and Career Development committee had worked with Felecia Perry to develop this resolution.

The committee had chosen to go with the 50/50 distribution between the staff development fund and the sponsoring department to fund each internship.  Brink emphasized that this was seed money to help the program get started.

Majors reported that departments have indicated an interest in hosting an intern as long as the cost for each is not extremely high.  Under this resolution, the staff development fund would bear the lion’s share of the cost.

Brink said that the resolution proposed supporting five positions for this year and next year.

 

Employee Presentations

Marshall Dietz made a presentation on the effect of the last five years of non-salary adjustment given the combination of inflation and CPI on salary received.  He cited the compensation report of 2006 that stated a pay philosophy to encourage performance, recruitment and retention of the workforce.  Dietz produced a chart that compared the worth of $100 of salary each year since 2000.  He said that given that the consumer price index was 3.4% in 2000, that $100 would be worth only $96.60.  The 2.2% salary increase of that year would have lifted one’s $100 of salary only to the value of $98.73.

Dietz said that the effect of compounded numbers over time means that the $100 in salary paid in 2000 now is only worth $96.30.  Employees trying to buy $100 in good can only purchase $96.30, as the value of money has decreased.

The average State worker who was paid $32,700 in 2000 lost $416 in purchasing power that year, lost $331.02 in 2001, lost $1000 of purchasing power in 2002, lost $1750 on $33,000 in 2003 and lost $1900 in 2004 thanks to these compounded numbers.  All in all, Dietz said, the average SPA employee gave up $7,000 over the past five years in uncompensated cost of living adjustments to balance the budget.

Even if employees receive 5% increases this year, the increase will not create any reduction in the decrease of the last five years, never mind the $7,000 already lost to the average employee.

Dietz said that this was the reason he had requested a straight $3500 increase to compensate for previous lost value.  He said that state employees had contributed $600 million to the state’s budgets by taking reduced cost of living increases.

Brink asked if the Forum could make this information available to legislators this year.  Dietz said that he had experienced similar cost cutting practices as a parent of a deaf child in the Fairfax, Virginia county school system.  He said that the Legislature seemed non-responsive or unaware that the lowest paid employees earn below the poverty level.

The Chair said that he had personally visited around 80 legislators to advocate for a flat $3500 or 5% raise.  He said that much would be revealed when the Senate budget director produces his figures.  He said that of the $2.1 billion budget, only $700-750 million represents recurring dollars from which salary increases could come.  He said that it would cost around $60 million to guarantee a minimum $1600 pay raise.  He said he would push for $3500, but had been told that the money was not available.  The Chair said that he would print up additional copies of Dietz’ presentation when he goes to meet with the budget director this afternoon.  He emphasized presenting stories and making phone calls to legislators.

Brannigan asked whether the Chair had the right to deviate from the Forum’s approved resolution for a budget position.  He wanted the Chair to represent the Forum’s stated position for a flat $3500 increase or 5%.  The Chair that he had sent out a letter advocating that position to legislators and had repeated that position in face-to-face discussions.  However, he said that the Forum needed to do the best it could.  Brannigan said that the Chair was not authorized to negotiate for the Forum and instead should work to highlight the gap between what the Legislature would approve and what the Forum desired.  The Chair said that he had said many times that employees want a guaranteed minimum raise for the lowest paid employees.

Brannigan thought that it seemed a waste of time if the Forum’s representatives did not carry forward the final recommendation in its discussions with legislative leaders.  Dietz asked why state employees always seem to come last in discussions.  Sixty percent of the people working for the State earn less than $35,000.  He said that it was time that citizens speak out instead of allowing corporations alone to influence budgetary decisions.

Brannigan said that the Chair must carry the Forum’s message alone to legislators.  Kylander said that budgets always represent a compromise, but thought that the Forum should stick to its guns and ask what for what it recommends.  She thought that the negotiating process meant that legislators will lowball the amount available to state employees and that we should not settle for the first thing offered.

The Chair asked how many people had contacted a legislator to ask for the flat $3500 raise.  Alan Moran recalled the June 2 e-mail from the Chair and Tommy Griffin.  He said that the Forum risked diluting its message by agreeing to a 5% plus 1% merit increase, contrary to what the Forum had voted for as a collective body.  He understood that the Forum will not likely achieve its goal but thought that the Chair should represent the specific goals approved by the Forum.

The Chair understood numbers provided by legislative budget directors to mean that the money was not there for the Forum’s recommendations.  Instead, legislators needed to make some decisions about what to do with the 5% plus 1% figure or the Senate’s recommendation. Denzler said that if the Forum’s representatives merely kept repeating the figures listed in the resolution, these key decisionmakers would soon find they had no further reason to discuss with the Forum’s representatives.  She felt sympathetic with Brannigan’s point but did not want to close off room for dialogue about options.

Brannigan said that as state employees have been denied collective bargaining, the Chair should represent what was communicated via the Forum’s resolution.  He said that once the negotiating process begins, the resolution’s value comes up for debate.  He did not think that the Chair was authorized to negotiate in bargaining and instead should stick to the mantra of $3500 or 5%.  Moran appreciated the Chair’s efforts but said that no one had approached the Forum or the Executive Committee to describe what changes were to be done.

The Chair said that he had been asked to help the most people with the funds available.  He had been told that a flat raise of $1600 would cost $60 million.  McQuown said that if the funds are not available the Forum should work to get legislators to rewrite the budget.  He agreed with the idea that we should not be negotiating with them.

The Chair said that he was working to inculcate a moral responsibility among lawmakers to take care of state employees.  McQuown said that the Forum should indicate via a clear message that the proposed budget is insufficient and inadequate.  Keith Fogleman said that the rest of the people should know that the Forum has stuck to its guns.  Kylander said that the compromise letter seemed to show that the Forum was a divided body that was not negotiating from a position of strength.

The Chair said that the budget is decided by a small group of leadership who cut all of the deals.  He said that the Forum needed to decide its goals.  One goal is a fixed pay raise to help the lower paid employees.  One of the questions asked was what is the highest fixed pay raise that could be given.  He said specifically to legislators that a fixed raise would help lower paid employees more than a specific percentage.

Dietz said that the Chair had been sent to represent a bargaining position without numbers to back that position.  McQuown said that the Chair could present a message that legislators are not looking out for state employees if they do not approve a budget with a fixed increase.

The Chair said that he planned to take Dietz’ numbers to the Legislature that afternoon.  Eszter Karvazy said that Dietz’ presentation might better fall under a living wage resolution.  The Chair said that state senators were concerned that a fixed raise would create salary compression.

Brink said that when the Forum approves resolutions it must get these resolutions in the newspaper to communicate with the other 87,000 state employees.  Camilla Crampton said that the choice to send postcards May 24 moved things more quickly than expected.  She said that the Chair had sent two different messages to folks and she thought that the Forum should speak with the voice of the Forum, not individuals.

Liz Crowley said that the Forum should take the opportunity to learn from this experience, as it was the first time that it had sent representatives to participate in the salary increase process.  She thought it important that next year’s Forum decide the role of the Chair and Vice Chair.  She did not think the Forum should kill the messenger and kill with increased expectations after the fact.  Instead, she thought that the Forum should pat itself on the back for going into this uncharted territory and use the discussion to prepare for next year.

The Chair said that we need many more employees discussing the need for a flat raise with legislators.  The Forum is not a lobbying power or a union; it cannot write a check but instead has only a moral argument to take care of lower paid people.  When told that only so much money is available for staff salaries, the Chair said that he tried to follow the concept of the Forum’s resolutions on the subject.

Beth Graves said that the Legislative Action committee was excited about the Chair and Kevin Fitzgerald’s participation in the legislative process.  She emphasized that people who have not been in the room with decisionmakers might not know how it is like.  She also stressed the benefit of repeating the recommended bargaining position.

Brannigan said that he had a problem with accepting the status quo position of having only so much money available for staff salaries.  He suggested that the Forum present alternatives, for instance a 25% increase in the sailboat tax.  Crowley said the question now is should the Chair change his message now to come up with a different process for the future.  Fogleman said that legislators may come to discount the Forum’s resolutions if they know that its negotiators are easily moved off of its positions.

Sue Field said that state employees should enjoy the prospect of raises this year given the likely event of an economic crash in the near future.  Moran said that the issue was about procedure, not money.  The Chair asked what procedure should the Forum use when things were moving so quickly and a general caucus was not available.  He had communicated the need for a fixed amount.

Jill Hartman asked why there is no money available from the 8% for teachers, 6% + 2% for EPA employees and so on.  She said that SPA employees are not even treated equally in these discussions.

The Chair said that he had also asked that the Legislature provide the same pay raise to all of its employees.  The Legislature chose not to override the Governor’s increased raise for teachers and others.  Kylander said that the Forum must project solidarity to legislators and not division.  The Chair asked if approving a fixed amount or 5% was more important.  Crampton recalled that both components were of equal importance.

Moran praised the idea of forming an ad hoc committee to discuss negotiating questions for next year and to set forth guidelines.  Brannigan said that this discussion was one of the reasons for creating a legislative action committee.  He hoped that the Forum’s end product would be stronger and more assertive as a product of a potent legislative action committee.

The Chair recalled that the speed of the budget was much faster than anyone anticipated.  Crampton agreed that the timing was unbelievable.  The Chair said that he had argued very strongly for a fixed component with a percentage increase.  He said that when presented with a fixed number available for discussion, he had to try to meet the original meaning of the resolution, whether the dollar amounts were different or not.

 

Liz Crowley reported on her service with the OS1 study committee.  The committee has decided to add housekeepers to its membership and to change its meeting time to 7 a.m. on Friday.  She said that discussions have been much less passionate than she expected.  Zone and OS1 housekeepers should soon have a place on the study committee.  Crowley urged members to forward their concerns to committee members.

 

The Chair said that he was leaving on vacation time at 2 p.m. to meet with members of the General Assembly.  He invited Forum delegates to join him if they preferred.

 

Brink noted that the pay grade limit for the computer loan program would soon be raised to grade 65.

 

Fogleman noted that his father had recently passed and he thanked the Forum for sending on a bouquet of flowers.

 

The Forum voted to keep its regular meeting date in July instead of moving its meeting to the following week.

 

The Forum adjourned at 11:44 a.m.

 

Respectfully submitted,

 

 

Matt Banks, Recording Secretary

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