May 2, 2001
Agenda —May 2, 2001
9:30 a.m.— Assembly Room of Wilson Library
I. Call to Order
Welcome Guests, Members of the Press
III. Opening Remarks
- Chancellor James Moeser
- Provost Robert Shelton
- Vice Chancellor for Finance and Administration Nancy Suttenfield
IV. Special Presentations
- Dana Cope, Executive Director of State Employees’ Association of North Carolina
- Joanne Kucharski, on Carolina Women’s Issues
V. Human Resources Update
- Laurie Charest, Associate Vice Chancellor for Human Resources
VI. Capital Improvement Update
- Karen Geer, Facilities Services
VII. Employee Presentations or Questions
VIII. Approval of Minutes of the April 4, 2001 meetings
IX. Unfinished Business
- Forum Resolution Urging University to Support and Partially Fund Fare-Free Transit in the Towns of Chapel Hill and Carrboro (2nd Reading)
X. Stretch Time
XI. New Business
XII. Forum Committee Reports
- Career Development: Fred Jordan
- Communications: Suzan deSerres
- Forum Newsletter
- Employee Presentations: Sheila Storey
- Nominating: Tracey Haith
- Orientation: Suzan deSerres
- Personnel Issues: Mary Ann Vacheron
- Recognition and Awards: Karen Jordan
- University Committee Assignments: Lee Edmark
XIII. Chair’s Report (Executive Committee): John Heuer
XIV. Task Force/University Committee Reports
- Pedestrian Safety Committee— Sheila Storey
- Transportation & Parking Advisory — Chris Barfield/Joanne Kucharski
May 2, 2001
(Wilson Library Assembly Room)
Chris Barfield Anderson
Mary Ann Vacheron
Kathy Dutton “
Karen Geer “
Joanne Kucharski “
“ = Ex-Officio
Call to Order, Welcome to Guests
Chair John Heuer called the meeting to order at 9:30 a.m. He introduced and welcomed new Delagates Barbara Logue and Lisa Croucher, and new first alternates Loren Estes and Edward Eldred.
The Chair noted the public service awards banquet which had occurred last week. Among those staff employees honored were former Forum delegate Michael Ullman, Forum first alternate Larry Hicks, and Forum Assistant Matt Banks.
The Chair welcomed Chancellor James Moeser to provide opening remarks. Moeser noted concerns about the University budget. He said that in spite of the negative press reports, no cuts have been made. There have only been the proposed cuts from the join appropriations committee. Moeser said that from his conversations with the legislative leadership in Raleigh, there is a strong desire not to make cuts to University education. He said it is our task to rally public opinion in favor of higher State education. Moeser said that this support was present when three-quarters of the State’s voters approved the University bond issue to renovate old building and construct new facilities. He said that the proposed cuts would be disastrous to the future of the University System.
Moeser noted that Provost Robert Shelton and Vice Chancellor for Finance and Administration Nancy Suttenfield would address the faculty at its general meeting the following day. Moeser said that Employees interested in contacting their legislators can access the Government Relations website at http://www.unc.edu/govrel or contact the Government Relations office for a listing of representatives.
Linda Collins asked what the Forum could do to support the University in its dealings with legislators. The Chair said that the Forum could support the University by approving the resolution on the subject that would be introduced later on in the meeting. In addition, he planned to adjourn the Forum meeting early to allow Delegates to attend the student rally in support of the University, to take place at 11 a.m. that morning.
Martha Fowler, Forum first alternate and Chair of State Employees’ Association of North Carolina (SEANC) District 19, introduced Executive Director Dana Cope. She noted that Cope had attended Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, had worked with the North Carolina Chapter of the AFL-CIO, and specialized in negotiation at Harvard Law School. She said that SEANC’s job is to protect the rights and benefits of current and future State employees, and to help attract and retain the best employees possible.
Cope thanked Fowler and the Chair for the chance to speak on behalf of SEANC. He was struck by the many photographs of Depression-era North Carolinians hung around the room. Cope saw in the eyes of these North Carolinians a determination and dignity that represent what SEANC is all about.
SEANC represents 60,000 employees in the State of North Carolina. He noted that North Carolina ranks 38th in the nation in public service pay, and said that it was wrong and immoral that a state with a $14.5 billion budget cannot adequately fund its employees’ pay and benefits.
Cope said that SEANC is more than lobbying organization, as it is the only professional organization that lobbies on behalf of all State employees and retirees. Cope said that all other lobbyists try to take money out of employees’ paychecks, be they for capital improvements, parking lots or other projects. Cope noted that SEANC’s position is that the state should take care of its most valuable resource, the 200,000 State employees who serve the citizens of North Carolina, before it expands into other programs.
Cope said that he was working to change the public perception of what State employees do. He said that State employees are some of the most dedicated people he had ever known who provide service for the people of the state. Unfortunately, members of the public still do not see this dedication.
Cope said that SEANC is a membership-driven organization that works for and takes direction from its 51 districts across the state. He said that SEANC must be able to provide a united front to the Legislature on subjects like health care and benefits, so that employees are not the ones chosen to balance the budget. He recalled that even when the Legislature had a billion dollar surplus, State employees only received a 2-3% pay raise.
In the past, SEANC leaders used to attend meetings with politicians and then settle for 2-3% pay raises, with the admonition that they should be happy for their jobs, and not angry that money was taken out of the retirement system. Cope said that the leaders of the Legislature, not State employees or SEANC’s leadership, were the ones taking advantage of the system. He said now, SEANC is saying that enough is enough. Last year, State employees received the largest pay raise in year. He said it would soon be time to take a look at the pay scale, to help those at the lower end.
SEANC contributes to the State’s economy, and provides thousands of hours of community service through its members. SEANC works with the Morehead School of the Blind, among many other community service projects. Cope said that employees have to start fighting for themselves.
Cope recalled that Moeser had mentioned a rally on behalf of the University to occur that afternoon. He said that SEANC stands behind the University one-hundred percent, and would not let the State cut a single position from the University without raising a stink. He also urged employees not to fall prey to leaders of the Legislature who try to rally public funding for different programs at the expense of employees. Cope said that legislators will try to lower expectations to ease their path to health care cost increases and deductions from the retirement system.
This year the State lowered its contribution to the State retirement system from 5.5 to 2.3%. Cope said that any time the State lowers contributions to the system, it adversely affects the entire system—reducing COLA increases for retirees and retirement benefits. Cope said that it made little sense that a $14.5 billion budget cannot find the $6-700 million needed to fund fully the comprehensive pay plan and the needed health care costs.
Cope admitted that he had ruffled feathers in Raleigh by speaking this way, but he said he had to educate people about what occurs in Raleigh.
The Chair asked whether the budget would be ready by the end of the fiscal year. Cope said that he did not have a crystal ball, but he thought that the budget would take a lot of time. The Legislature will also need to make time for redistricting.
Keith Fogleman asked why we have found out about this mess only after the new governor had been elected. Cope said that both sides of the aisle knew very well what would happen last year. Nonetheless, the Republicans had cut taxes and the Democrats spent money anyway, with an increase in spending from 7% to 8% last year. Cope blamed both parties for poor planning.
Tom Rhyne asked why State employees could not target members of the Legislature who are anti-State government employees with their vote. Cope said that last year SEANC made a conscious effort to target certain legislators who had voted against State employee interests, and had taken a heavy hit. These decisions were made at the local level by SEANC districts; however, once the decision was made, SEANC went full-bore into supporting the opposing candidate. Cope advised employees to read the “Votes and Quotes” section of the SEANC newsletter to read what legislators say about employees.
Cope said that SEANC would hold a rally in Raleigh May 16 with barbecue and speeches to put pressure on the State Legislature. Last year SEANC anticipated it would host 2,500 employees and had 5,000 show up.
The Chair asked if Cope would speak in detail about proposed changes to the State Health plan. Cope said that the Legislature was examining raising out of pocket costs from $250 to $750, increasing prescription filing fees to $5-7 a visit, increasing the copayments for office visits, and raising out-of-pocket expenses to $2000 a year. Cope said that these changes were simply wrong and decried the money that doctors, hospitals, and pharmacies make from the State health plan. He said that the State plan should realize some savings because it represents so many people. SEANC is developing a counterproposal to fund fully the State health plan so that State employees are not the ones bearing the brunt of funding.
Cope said that a major point is not allowing doctors, hospitals and pharmacies to price gouge the State plan. He said it was in the interest of the state that providers are reimbursed at fair market costs, not extra for profit margins. Cope noted that Senate Bill 451, sponsored by Senator Tony Rand, would allow pharmacists to balance bill employees dispensing fees to make up for State limitations in pharmacy’s filing fees. Cope said that this was a horrible bill that would allow pharmacies to charge whatever they chose to make up their profit margins on filing fees. He noted that rural pharmacies have been reported inserting fliers saying that if SB 451 is not passed, they may have to drop their pharmaceutical coverage. He said it was dirty tactics trying to use employees to lobby for a bill that will make them pay more out of pocket than before. He hoped that SEANC would be able to keep the bill away from special provisions or attachments available to powerful senators.
Mary Ann Vacheron noted that Senator Eric Reeves has introduced a bill to prevent arbitrary access to employees’ personnel files. She noted fear that legislators might use this access for their own benefit. They already now have this access, but are prevented from disclosing information in public. Reeves’ bill would make legislators go through a joint ethics committee in executive session to obtain access. Cope said that this bill had passed the Senate but had a long way to go in the House.
An Employee asked if there was a link between the Forum and SEANC home page. Matt Banks said that he would create this link to the new page at http://www.seanc.org
Paula Schubert noted that several early retirement bills have entered legislative subcommittees. One, with perhaps the best chance of survival, would allow retirement after 28 years of service. This bill stands a chance of passage given that it would save the State money. There has also been some activity in allowing State employees to retire and return to a position at a salary closer to what they earned before.
John Meeker asked SEANC’s position on a State lottery. Cope said that SEANC favors a lottery for revenue enhancement reasons. He said that the majority of SEANC members support a lottery, thinking that money spent on lotteries should stay in North Carolina.
Robert Thoma asked why State employees’ salaries are always last on the agenda, when Human Resources are said to be so important. Cope said that employee salaries should be number one on the legislative agenda. He said that SEANC had asked for a 12.5% pay raise this budget year given that State jobs lag 15.5% in private market jobs. He urged employees to be strong and united in pressuring members of the State Legislature.
The Chair noted that a number of items would be tabled until the June meeting due to time constraints and the student rally.
Human Resources Update
Associate Vice Chancellor for Human Resources Laurie Charest invited Employees to participate in the Spring Fling run and walk, which would occur Friday at noon.
Charest noted that Human Resources had received a wonderful response to the health insurance survey, with a response rate of 37%. Respondents chose increasing copayments as the most unacceptable choice to resolve health care issues, followed by increasing deductibles and raising premiums for family coverage. The least unacceptable option was found to be adding $100 to the surgical copayment.
Charest noted that the survey data could be extrapolated to show that as many 700 children could have their health insurance dropped, a matter of extreme concern. Charest said that Human Resources had carefully read and digested the more than 1,200 comments accompanying the survey. Human Resources is working on appropriate ways to pass on survey results which have been shared with the State Health Plan, the Office of the President, and colleagues within the UNC system.
Charest had different information than Cope about possible changes to the State plan. She understood that there was a tentative agreement to increase the deductible to $400 a year, and to increase the maximum out of pocket expenditures from $1000 to $1500 a year. There may also be a 30% premium increase and a $100 deductible for prescription drug coverage. Charest noted that there had been zero bids from Health Maintenance Organizations to cover State employees this year. There is a bill in the Legislature that would allow the State to fund its own HMO. However, for now, State employees’ only option is the State health plan.
Charest said that Director of Benefits Joann Pitz had met with the Forum Executive Committee to discuss health care reimbursement accounts and how these could decrease employees’ health care expenses. Human Resources will conduct information sessions in October before the official signup period begins.
Finally, the SPA salary study will deliver its conclusions next week. The Chair will join Charest and other University officials to discuss the results with study consultants. Charest noted that the study will look at eighty identifiably benchmark positions and extrapolate from these positions to other jobs. The study will gauge how UNC-Chapel Hill and North Carolina State University compensate these positions in comparison with the local market and peer institutions. It is hoped that the study will be useful to convince the State to look at funding priorities to draw qualified employees in comparison with the Research Triangle park.
Betty Averette understood that NCSU pays less than UNC-Chapel Hill anyway. Charest said that the two institutions have exactly the same salary ranges, although particular positions might pay differently. She said it would be inaccurate to say that NCSU pays less.
Tracey Haith wondered the percentage of State employees on the State Health plan versus those with HMOs. Charest said that it is a very high percentage with the State plan. She said that the new people leaving HMOs in the future will likely not be a healthy addition to the pool, and so would not add to the plan’s reserve. She said that the plan has bled off its reserve over the last several years and the reserve is completely gone this year. She said that since there has not been an increase in premiums for many years, and costs have risen dramatically, this situation has eaten away the reserve. She said that it is assumed that all HMO coverage will end September 30.
The Chair said that the Forum is exploring holding its community meeting May 23 at 10:30 a.m., although this is subject to change.
Suzan de Serres said that all material for the University Gazette insert should be submitted to her tomorrow. InTouch newsletter material should be submitted by May 9, at the latest.
The Chair noted Andy Chrismon’s suggestion that committee chairs invite questions after giving their discussion of activities. He applauded the Forum for its perceptive questions this session.
Karen Jordan, chair of the Recognition & Awards committee, said that she had received one design for the Forum flag.
The Chair introduced a draft resolution supporting adequate University funding. He asked the Forum to consider the resolution on first reading and invited comment. The Forum suggested several wording changes which the Chair accepted.
Jeffery Fuchs moved that the Forum accept the resolution on first reading, with Lee Edmark seconding. The motion was approved unanimously. Fuchs moved that the Forum suspend its rules to consider the resolution on second reading in the same meeting. Edmark seconded this motion. The motion was approved unanimously.
Fuchs moved that the Forum approve the resolution on second reading, seconded by Edmark. The motion was approved unanimously and the resolution was hereby approved by the Employee Forum.
At this point, the Chair moved that the meeting be adjourned so that Delegates could join students at the rally for the University. This motion was approved by acclamation, and the meeting adjourned at 11 a.m.
Matt Banks, Recording Secretary