Resolution 21-01, Regarding Authority to Approve Salary Increases for EHRA Non-Faculty and SHRA University Employees and Redefinition of ‘Additional Job Duties’ in the University’s Salary Increase Guidelines
RESOLUTION OF THE EMPLOYEE FORUM
THE UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA AT CHAPEL HILL
March 3, 2021
WHEREAS, it is the stated mission of the Employee Forum to seek out and address constructively issues affecting Staff, Faculty, and Students of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; and
WHEREAS, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated long-standing issues related to employee compensation for their labor, highlighted in the October 2020 Employee Forum report, Effects of COVID-19 on the Employees of UNC-Chapel Hill and Recommendations for Senior Leaders, as 12 percent of survey respondents explicitly stated they were working more or harder than was typical prior to the emergence of the pandemic; and
WHEREAS, University EHRA Non-Faculty and SHRA employees remain essential partners in the pursuit of outcomes associated with the University’s strategic plan, Carolina Next: Innovations for Public Good, as endorsed by the UNC Chapel Hill Board of Trustees on January 30, 2020; and
WHEREAS, a strain on UNC employees of such magnitude hinders progress toward the achievement of objectives from Carolina Next, particularly those expressed for strategic initiatives 1 (“Build Our Community Together”), 3 (“Enable Career Development”), and 8 (“Optimize Operations”); and
WHEREAS, through the Carolina Next strategic initiative to “Enable Career Development,” University leaders acknowledge a need to “improve our operational efficiencies to create a smarter working environment and foster staff development for the evolving University workforce to recruit, develop and retain the very best;” and
WHEREAS, through the Carolina Next strategic initiative to “Optimize Operations,” University leaders call for efforts to “design, implement, execute, assess, and continuously improve the administrative operations that support the University’s mission of teaching, research and public service;” and
WHEREAS, the Effects of COVID-19 on the Employees of UNC-Chapel Hill and Recommendations for Senior Leaders report also documented evidence-based recommendations for University leaders, including “Provide Additional Compensation” and “Protect Vulnerable Staff;” and
WHEREAS, the authority for pre-approving salary adjustments of over 20% for SHRA employees currently resides with the UNC System Office, while the authority for salary adjustments of over 20% for EHRA Non-Faculty employees currently resides with the UNC Board of Trustees, the Office of the UNC System President, and—for salary adjustments of 25% and above—the UNC Board of Governors; and
WHEREAS, the ‘HR Pause’ and efforts under the Carolina Next strategic initiative to “Optimize Operations” have largely precluded academic and support units from (1) backfilling positions which have been vacated since March 2020 or (2) creating new positions without seeking levels of approval beyond what had been ‘normal’ human resources policies and processes for University operations; and
WHEREAS, in lieu of hiring employees to address unmet increases in the volume of work, the University has relied on existing staff to absorb these job duties for little to no additional compensation; and
WHEREAS, the justification for this disinclination to implement temporary or permanent salary adjustments for employees who have taken on additional duties lies in part on the current policy definition of “additional job duties,” which requires that there be “a substantive increase in the scope and/or complexity of the job,” including temporary adjustments with a defined start and stop date, and that “such an increase may not be justified solely on the basis of increased work volume;” and
WHEREAS, in practice, when a Fair Labor Standards Act-exempt employee—thereby ineligible to receive overtime—takes on the duties of a lateral- or lower-classified position, there exists no mechanism for the employee to receive appropriate additional compensation under the existing definition of “additional job duties,” temporary or otherwise; and
WHEREAS, University leaders have consistently asked schools, work units, faculty, and staff to ‘do more with less’ due to the lack of an approved state budget over the previous two fiscal years—a situation which is only exacerbated by University leaders’ intentions to attempt to balance the University’s accrued budget deficit while still in the midst of the economic recovery from the pandemic; and
WHEREAS, the consequences of which are that many SHRA and EHRA Non-Faculty employees across the University have been assigned increased work volumes for the foreseeable future with no mechanism for commensurate compensation under the current definition of “additional job duties” in the University’s policy; and
WHEREAS, it would be fairer and more equitable to University staff—and more fiscally prudent for the University—to provide compensation commensurate with the additional work performed by current UNC employees in lieu of hiring additional staff to perform those duties; as an illustrative example:
A department has a Business and Technology Applications Technician (contributing competency level) leave the position. To hire a new employee to fill the vacant position—with a listed market rate of $49,092/year based on the current published career banding market rates, the fringe benefit rate for a permanent employee of 25.889% for FY2021, and the fixed health insurance expense of $6,512/year—would cost that department $68,313 annually.
However, a 20% salary increase (i.e., $9,818/year) for a Business and Technology Applications Technician (contributing) currently employed at UNC whose annual salary is equivalent to the market rate ($49,092/year) and who has taken on the additional job duties of the vacated position in the work unit on a temporary or long-term basis will increase that current employee’s annual base salary to $58,910. Adding fringe benefits and health insurance, the total annual expense to the department would be $80,673 for the current employee to assume lateral responsibilities and an increased volume of work.
Rather than committing to a new employee’s salary of $68,313/year to fill the vacant position, the department could invest $12,360 annually to retain a high-performing, current employee with the institutional knowledge, skills, experience, and expertise to accommodate an increased work volume and be appropriately compensated for performing that additional work through a salary adjustment.
NOW, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Employee Forum urges the Chancellor and his Cabinet to:
• Advocate on behalf of the University to reclaim campus-level authority to approve EHRA Non-Faculty and SHRA employee salary increases greater than 20% (and $15,000).
• Advocate for the UNC System Office (and, in turn, the North Carolina Office of State Human Resources and the North Carolina General Assembly) to update the definition of “additional job duties” as described in the University’s Salary Increase Guidelines policy to include ‘substantive increase in work volume’ as a permissible qualifying reason for temporary or permanent EHRA Non-Faculty and SHRA employee salary increases to (1) ensure that the staff who are performing above and beyond their usual job duties and workload are being appropriately compensated; (2) maintain the fiscal integrity of the University; and (3) mitigate further job attrition due to burnout or pursuit of external employment opportunities.