Agenda September 3, 2003

9:30 a.m.—-Meeting: Pleasants Family Assembly Room, Wilson Library

I.          Call to Order

II.         Welcome Guests & Members of the Press

III.            Opening Remarks

· Chancellor James Moeser (to appear at 10:15 a.m.)

IV.       Special Presentations

· Keita Cannon, on University Grievance Procedures

V.        Employee Presentations or Questions

VI.       Human Resources Update

· Laurie Charest, Associate Vice Chancellor for Human Resources

VII.      Minutes of the June 6, July 9 and August 6 meetings

VIII.     New Business

· Election of New Vice Chair to Replace the Resigning Joanne Kucharski

IX.        Stretch Time 6

X.         Forum Committee Reports

· Recognition and Awards:  Katherine Graves/Shirley Hart

· University Committee Assignments:  Tom Arnel

· Career Development: Ray Doyle

· Communications: Brian White

Þ    Forum Newsletter

· Employee Presentations:  Joanne Kucharski

· Nominating: Katherine Graves

Þ    Forum Elections

· Orientation:  Meredith Clason

· Personnel Issues: Tom Rhyne/Delita Wright

XI.        Chair’s Report (Executive Committee):  Tommy Griffin

XII.       Task Force/University Committee Reports

· University Priorities and Budget Advisory Committee—Tommy Griffin

· Carolina North Project—Tommy Griffin

XIII.      Announcements/Questions

XV.      Adjournment

P = Included in Agenda Packet

MINUTES

Forum minutes of September 3, 2003 meeting (abridged)

 

Chair Tommy Griffin called the meeting to order at 9:34 a.m.  He welcomed Associate Vice Chancellor for Human Resources Laurie Charest and a portion of her newly hired generalist team.

Keita Cannon, the policy administrator for Human Resources, asked the Forum to help find support people to serve on University grievance panels.  He said that these volunteers would work to keep track of documents as well as provide comfort and moral support for those going through the process.  Katherine Graves volunteered to be the first support person involved.  Cannon said that the time commitment required for grievants could range from one week to much longer, depending on the complexity of the grievance.  Training for the role will take only half a day and does count as work time.  Delita Wright asked how Human Resources had advertised for support personnel in the past.  Cannon said that the department had placed ads in the University Gazette, sent memos to the HRIS e-mail list, consulted with Human Resources communications head Chris Chiron and posted ads in visible locations around campus.

Mack Rich asked if the support person would necessarily come from the grievant’s particular department.  Cannon said that this was not necessarily so.  Rich suggested that grievants receive a list of possible support people from which they can choose their preference.

 

Human Resources Update

Charest announced that Claire Miller has received an appointment as senior director of Human Resources services.  She reported changes with the State health plan.  First of all, the North Carolina Baptist Hospital in Winston-Salem is no longer a participant in the plan.  The hospital had not been able to negotiate an agreement with the hospital.  Those receiving coverage at the hospital under the plan will receive coverage up to 45 days following June 30, 2004.

In a welcome change, out of state emergency care now is considered network care when given by any provider, as long as the care is considered given in a medical emergency, or the physician deciding is uncertain about the patient’s status.  Enrollees vacationing out of state can consult a toll free phone number to find cost-wise providers in their area.

Charest reminded members to check on their prescription drugs’ preferred or non-preferred status.  Finally, she noted that health plan rates changes take effect with the September 5 biweekly and September 30 monthly paychecks.

An Employee asked about confusion between the Advance PCS and State plan formulary lists of prescriptions, and a respondent noted timing issues between the two websites.  This respondent also advised Employees to consult the plan before having procedures done of any import, particularly with Costwise physicians.

Senior Director of Policy Administration Drake Maynard spoke on University layoffs, particularly State layoffs as opposed to research grant funding layoffs.  He said that EPA non-faculty Employees are technically discontinued, but not laid off.  Of the approximately 6200 SPA Employees on campus, 48 were laid off from July 1, 2002 to June 30, 2003 due to State budget cuts and another 21 laid off due to termination of research activity funds (contracts & grants).  In years past, the University usually saw 10-20 layoffs annually, almost all due to changes in research activity.

So far in this fiscal year from the end of August, 21 SPA Employees have been laid off due to State cuts and another 6 SPA Employees were laid off due to losses in grant funding, reorganization and other reasons.

The layoff process requires that a department must identify other ways to handle budget cuts before laying off Employees, such as reducing travel or supply purchases.  Following this criteria, a department must study positions by classification, looking first at temporary, probationary and vacant positions when determining needed layoffs in that classification.  Searches for possible layoff candidate positions depend on an organization’s size and structure.

When studying permanent SPA Employees, the most important consideration is relative efficiency.  Since most Employees have rated Very Good or Outstanding on their performance reviews, these layoff decisions can become very difficult.  If all Employees in a particular classification have the same performance rating, then consideration falls to length of State service, with more years service holding an advantage.  Some departments want to revise this process to include commendations, awards, recognition programs and disciplinary actions.

When a person is selected for layoff, Maynard’s office must ensure that the department has made the selection in compliance with established policies.  The person must receive a letter notifying them at least 30 days prior to their effective separation.

A State formula determines the allocation of severance pay, and laid off Employees have the same priority as other current State Employees when applying for a job at the same salary grade and full-time equivalent hours.  The purpose of this priority is to allow the laid off Employee to get back to their former status as quickly as possible.  The University has added outplacement assistance and life management counseling, services that do not form part of State policy.  Informal feedback has indicated that these programs are useful and effective for those laid off.

An Employee asked why a department should have to take someone who was not wanted by another department.  Maynard said that this Employee might have the lowest relative efficiency in a department, or might be part of a program in which all Employees were laid off at once.  Given the hard times the State faces, the majority of laid off applicants are people adversely affected by budget cuts.

Reemployment priority means first of all that the hiring process identifies this person and provides special counseling and must at least be offered an interview for a position.  However, turning down an interview with a particular department will cancel a candidate’s priority status even if they do not want to work in a particular situation.  If the candidate, even if from another State agency, is minimally qualified and can do the job with training and other candidates are not State employees, the laid off candidate must be offered the job.  If the laid off candidate is competing with other State employees and internal candidates, the hiring supervisor has more discretion about whom is better qualified.

The laid off employee has priority status twelve months from the date notified.  Maynard hoped that the Forum would study ways to inform supervisors and Employees about resources to help laid off compatriots through the process and into another job.

Maynard hoped that the activity in this area would decrease soon.  He confirmed that the laid off candidate has similar priority, not higher priority, than current State employees, if both hold equal qualifications.  However, when competing against external candidates, the laid off candidate with equal credentials must get the job.  Delita Wright said that she had problems in a this kind of situation.  She asked about the possibility of disqualifying a hire due to bad references.  Maynard said that not hiring due to bad references opens up the individual hiring to legal liability.  Using bad references as a reason not to hire requires consistency with poor performance ratings.  In the opinion of the Office of State Personnel, a hiring officer rejecting a laid off applicant with bad references but a Good, Very Good or Outstanding rating on performance evaluations stands on legally shaky ground.  The WPPR is considered an official University document.

Wright asked if a hiring officer can call to check performance ratings and Maynard replied that this is a legal right, but he did not know if these previous supervisors can provide this information on the phone.  These ratings are confidential generally and not available from other State agencies or universities.  However, a hiring officer can call the department in which the applicant used to work to request the last two annual performance ratings.  One must assume that supervisors are granting honest ratings even if 98% of those ratings are Very Good or Outstanding.

Maynard confirmed that the laid off Employee receives 30 calendar days notice before separation.

Amy Gorely asked how many laid off University Employees find relocation in University or other State agencies.  Maynard said that ten had found new employment at UNC, given that a significant number of layoffs had occurred in the last 60 days.  Mary Johnson asked how Employees laid off due to research grant cuts are treated.  Maynard said that these people are affected by the overall economic condition of the State given the number of research grants available.

Charest confirmed that new retirement statements should go out very shortly.

Joanne Kucharski asked whether the University intended to reinstitute exit interviews for departing Employees.  Charest said that the Chancellor’s Task Force for a Better Workplace would study whether finding funding for this item is a responsible and appropriate thing.  Johnson suggested giving Employees an on-line form from which they could send in statements.  Charest said that she did not see the purpose of the form if the University did not do anything with the data collected.

Jenna McPhee asked if the University knew anything about the timing of the $550 one time bonus, given the tax planning implications of receiving the bonus in an extra paycheck in October or November.  The difference in tax collected can be considerable.  Charest said that the State will pay the bonus for the last payday in October for both SPA & EPA Employees.  Human Resources originally took this to mean the October 3 paydays but the Office of State Personnel said that the bonus must be paid the last possible date in October.  Charest said that this decision still is subject to change, and noted that Employees’ overall tax liability will not change in either case.  McPhee asked what the deadline is for Employees to divert this bonus to their 403(b) or 401(k) accounts; Charest said that Employees should file changes by October 10, needing a couple of weeks for processing.

Brian White noted the changes in the University adverse weather policy.  Charest said that the State had delegated the authority to close institutions to the Office of the President, which in turn delegated authority to individual campuses.  Human Resources is in the process of updating critical and emergency Employee registrations.  Departments must file these registrations with Human Resources in writing.

Claire Miller said that the University stands short of its goal of one Human Resources generalist for every 100 Employees, but said that the University is still working to hire additional staff.

 

The Forum approved the minutes of the June, July and August meetings, with one factual correction to the August minutes.

 

The Forum voted to approve Tom Arnel as its new vice chair.

 

The Chair introduced Chancellor Moeser to talk about the origin and work of the Chancellor Task Force for a Better Workplace.  Moeser said that the group would try to issue its final report by the end of November.  He said that the task force sought to find the things within the University’s power that it could achieve to improve the working life of staff Employees.  The task force, composed of faculty, staff and students, sought suggestions from all over the campus.  Nancy Dickinson of the School of Social Work has facilitated discussions and the task force has worked to form subcommittees.  The group will make recommendations for that which the University can do now, that which the University needs some administrative clearance to achieve, and that which would require legislation and/or major changes in State policy.  The task force will recommend picking off the easier goals while organizing its efforts towards the more difficult ones.  Obviously, the State Legislature controls staff compensation levels, placing that necessary improvement in the latter group.

Moeser noted the disparities in pay between people sitting in the same office but working for different institutions.  He also noted the great increase in University research grants, in number and dollars earned, and the fact that other parts of campus rely almost entirely on State funds.  He said that the University must redouble its efforts to address compensation and benefits issues, given the three-year lack of salary increases (aside from one-time bonuses).

Moeser praised the quality of work occurring in spite of these difficulties, such as those accompanying the beginning of the fall semester.  Moeser has asked students to be mindful of their effect on campus conditions.  He praised the University’s workers and noted that many in North Carolina do not hold any job now due to closing textile mills.  He also praised the University’s response to the State Employees’ Combined Campaign.

Tom Arnel asked whether Chancellor Moeser would support a flat across the board raise, to assist Employees at the lower end of the pay scale.  Moeser voiced his concern that 91 University Employees earn less than $18,000 a year and that they and others might have to draw on food banks and other resources to feed their families.  He was uncertain what the best solution would be given the very complex issues facing mid-range Employee wage concerns and equity questions.  He added that appropriations for increases are very important and should compensate for quality of work.  Overall, the State could not address its problems with a single silver bullet.

Charest said that in-range salary adjustments occur on a departmental basis.  She said that departments had funded substantial in-range adjustments for Employees at the lowest pay levels.  She added that some of these Employees also receive a shift differential although not necessarily enough to live comfortably.  Poverty levels depend on household size and income, not University-provided income.  She added that there is no University-wide initiative in this area currently.

Delita Wright voiced her concern with the use of bonus payments and vacation leave as a substitute for salary increases.  Moeser noted his surprise when the Legislature announced the addition of two weeks paid vacation leave, adding that these days will tack onto pay and retirement income owed at the beginning of retirement for these Employees.

Chris Middleton asked what the task force will discuss outside of monetary compensation issues.  Moeser replied that the University for the first time would assess parking fees by salary grade rather than salary levels.  The University will also study other areas in which it might scale costs according to salary to aid the lowest paid Employees.

John Heuer recalled the dedication of the Bicentennial campaign in 1992 and the amount of Carolina First campaign funds collected for endowed chairs and new buildings.  He asked about encouraging the development of office staff when soliciting contributions.  Moeser said that donors often want to contribute to items focused on experiences in the classroom and undergraduate education more than graduate education.  Donors typically are not interested in operational budgets or staff development, seeing these as obligations of the State.

Mary Johnson raised the possibility of taxes on donations and Moeser said that donors greatly resent these kinds of taxes.  Johnson said that the human foundation of the University is beginning to crumble and needs help.  Cheryl Lytle suggested that the University try a campaign encouraging donors to make a small donation each year to support University Employees.  Mike McQuown asked if the University had used donations to endow staff positions and Moeser said that it had.

Moeser said the goal of the task force is to issue its final report October 30, with minutes from all meetings on a website.  Delita Wright asked if personnel flexibility concerns might come up again.  Moeser said that the University should free itself of limitations imposed by the State Personnel Act.  However, any such change will require overcoming much fear and anxiety among Employees and committee members.  The Chancellor’s Task Force will not duplicate the work of the personnel flexibility task force.

Johnson asked about restoring Gerrard Hall to its previous status as a University chapel.  Moeser said that Gerrard Hall will stand as a multipurpose facility with time provided for meditation.  It will perhaps serve as a campus chapel with public performances, lectures, meeting spaces and other functions.

 

Committee Reports

The Recognition & Awards committee had received approximately 500 peer recognition nominations.  The Nominating committee would soon send out ballots to all Employees for the Forum delegate elections.  The Employee Presentations committee was still working on a date for the fall community meeting.  The Career Development committee had worked on improving attendance and enrollment in the University GED program, and hoped to announce institution of a part-time adult degree program soon.

The Personnel Issues committee noted that it had not received feedback on its University Gazette insert article.  The committee split itself this year into three subcommittees discussing benefits, parking & transit and equity and retention.  Subcommittees have met in parallel with the main group.  Issues discussed include health care benefits, parking fee hikes, grievance procedure processes and the Employee Flex program.

The Chair noted that the Forum’s resolution on the University chiller plant had influenced discussion from the Town Council, which indeed did vote to approve the construction of the plant, parking deck and other student housing.

 

The Forum then went around the room to talk about hopes and ideas for the Chancellor’s Task Force.

 

In the absence of further discussion the meeting adjourned at 11:54 a.m.

 

Respectfully submitted,

 

 

 

Matt Banks, Recording Secretary

 

Print Friendly