From the Chair, Tommy Griffin…
The Key to Success and Prosperity
Hello friends. It’s that time of the year when we must all take a close look at what’s going on in our state. As concerned citizens and employees, we must stay alert to the daily happenings in out State. Part of the responsibility of being a good citizen is to make sure that we know what’s happening in North Carolina. We need good two way communication between us and our leaders in the Raleigh as we approach the end of a fiscal year and are getting ready for the new one. What will the new year bring to our state? Will it bring prosperity? Will it bring all of us a well deserved pay raise? Will our health insurance improve so that we can afford to use it?
Well, that’s up to all of us: we need to make sure that our folks in Raleigh understand that these are desperate times for state employees and they need to make the right decisions for all of us. We need new jobs in our state, and we need to put our citizens back to work. We need to make sure we keep our education system strong and vibrant so we can attract new jobs. We need to have a well educated and trained pool of folks to fill any job that may come into the State.
Education is the key for success and prosperity, and it needs to be protected at all cost. There’s a price for education at any level and our state has always stood out when it comes to education. We all know how valuable our Community Colleges and Universities are to the folks in our State and to each of us. We know how valuable state employees are, but we need to see it in our paychecks. We want to be able to educate ourselves and our families, but it takes money to do that. It’s time for all of us to put our differences aside and unite. We need to make sure our leaders understand it is time to find some money to help all the folks in our State. Without people working together we wouldn’t have such a high quality educational system through out the state. Working together is what makes anything possible: one strong voice to support the needs of all Employees and our State. Thanks for all your hard work and support. Your friend always, Tommy.
After calling a special meeting with consensus from Delagates from all nine forum divisions, the Forum’s Personnel Issues Committee developed resolution 04-01, “Concerning Salary Increases for State of North Carolina Employees.” At the April 7 meeting, waiving the rule requiring resolutions be read at two meetings, the full Forum passed the resolution unanimously.
The resolution has been reported in several local newspapers and on television. Groups equivalent to our forum on all 16 UNC campuses have now passed the same resolution. We hope our unified voice will reach NC legislators before they convene in May to decide the fate of 2004 state employee raises.
The resolution asked the North Carolina General Assembly to:
1. Grant to all state employees a flat $2,000 annual salary increase for fiscal year 2004-2005 to partially compensate for the past years, during which state employees have not had a viable raise and to further bolster lower paid employee salaries;
2. Fund additional performance pay increases for all state employees with evaluations that are “Good” or above;
3. Raise the minimum hourly rate of salary for state employees to $10 an hour to ensure all state employees are paid at minimum a living wage.
It also requested that the Chancellor and his administration take the resolution forward to the University’s General Administration and the state legislature.
We asked for a flat raise for two primary reasons. First, a flat increase has the combined advantage of helping more where it is needed most, while helping all to a reasonable extent. Second, a flat increase is less expensive for the state to fund than a percentage increase because it tops off the highest paid employees at a doable figure. In tight budget times, we saw this as a win-win proposal.
This proposal is a “best this year” option, not limiting us from doing better in the future. We feel it goes a long way in the right direction to help state employees, and we sincerely hope it comes back as raises to help us all.
Delita Wright, Chair, Personnel Issues Committee
Laurie Charest, Associate Vice Chancellor for Human Resources, spoke at the April 7th Forum meeting to update members on her department’s progress in implementing Career Banding. Career Banding (or broad banding) Career Banding reduces an organization’s number of classification titles, while increasing the salary ranges within those titles. This system will replace the current classification system so that position “reclassification” will be eliminated as employees will move within career bands as their means of advancement. The system is intended to provide increased ability to recruit and retain employees by allowing pay to be set to market rates relative to an employee’s application of job competencies and skills.
Charest said that the current pay and classification system used by the State is over 40 years old and is not responsive to either management or employee needs. Career banding will allow broader classifications, salary flexibility, and localized management for salary plans. Banding assists managers and employees in determining what performances and skills are necessary for advancement through more clearly defined “career ladders” in state government. Managers will attend mandatory training on career banding implementation to ensure they understand how the new system works. For more information on career banding, visit Human Resources’ website at http://hr.unc.edu/Data/SPA/paysystems/careerbanding
According to Charest, the Law Enforcement and Public Safety group was fully banded in January of this year, and work is currently underway to have all Information Technology positions banded by July 1, 2004. Charest said that the Law Enforcement and IT job families were chosen first by the NC Office of State Personnel (OSP), and OSP will decide the order in which the remaining nine job families will be to the Career Banding system. (For more information, visit the Office of State Personnel’s website: http://www.osp.state.nc.us/ExternalHome/). Charest said that the Operations and Skilled Trades family was the next group scheduled for the banding move.
Charest pointed out that the Career Banding program does not include any funding for salary raises. It is just a different and we hope better way of managing classifications and salaries. In addition, because of the complex nature of the system along with the oversight function of the OSP, there is currently no set timetable for the full implementation of career banding, either at UNC or the state as a whole. If you feel your current job functions and responsibilities warrant consideration for a change in title and compensation, and you’re not in Law Enforcement or Information Technology, Charest suggested that you start with the reclassification process within your department and work through the process that’s currently in place. You shouldn’t sit and wait for the Career Banding system to work its way through to your position.
For most people, a birthday treat for a loved one is a gift that gives twice. We feel happy at the pleasure we have brought to someone we love, and we benefit from the joy of giving. Is there anyone who does not have some trinket or memento that is of little intrinsic value, but is priceless nonetheless, because it was a gift? An example is the birthday clothes pin I got from my niece one year.While I suspect we all have similar tales, I also think for some children birthday treats include things like a family visit to the Durham ballpark, or family pizza night out, or the long ached for and oft dreamt about birthday present, the first baseball mitt, or a pair of in-line skates.
For over sixty percent of North Carolina families with children, such treats are out of the question. A poverty wage is anything less than a living wage, or a wage that does not meet the “Living Income Standard” (LIS) as defined in the North Carolina Justice and Community Development Center report “Working Hard is Still Not Enough” (available at www.ncjustice.org in downloadable PDF format ).
The LIS is “focused on survival needs”. There is no allowance for eating out, birthday presents, outings to the ballpark, or even video rentals.
Could anyone oppose efforts to ensure that, at a minimum, all state workers are paid enough to buy small birthday treats?
Since the Civil War and through the depression, North Carolina has been a low wage economy, and we all suffer because of it. Poverty is a leading social indicator for low academic achievement, domestic violence, and child abuse. The income differential between workers, predicated as it is on poverty wages, impoverishes us all and underpins North Carolina’s low wage economy. If you raise the pay of the lowest paid, the pay of everyone else will be forced up to maintain differentials.
The Employee Forum has the power to help the 60% of families with children that do not earn enough to survive, by working toward the goal of a living wage for all State workers The NC Justice and Community Development Center 2002 report “State Workers/State Wages,” calculated it would cost $7.6 million dollars to raise all state employees to a LIS wage, a fraction of the more than $80 million wasted on corporate tax breaks. We should calculate how much it would cost to bring all UNC-CH employees up to the LIS and initiate a UNC system wide analysis to find the current cost of a LIS for all UNC workers.
You often hear why a LIS wage is impossible and costly, but opponents rarely have figures to validate their claims. We should have facts and figures that will counter their usual scare tactics. The facts and figures all support the argument for living wages; that’s why opponents resort to scare tactics.
Advocating for a living wage will help divert the NC economy from the dead end street of a low wage economy. It will also help to raise the wage level throughout the state. The Employee Forum should work to ensure the University does not strive to be the best public university at the expense of its lowest paid employees. We cannot be the best if we forget “you fill a bucket from the bottom”.
Dave Brannigan, Employee Forum Division II Delegate.
After three years without a raise, with health care and other costs rising, it is time for state employees to get a salary increase. Over the past three years, faced with extreme budget problems, the state legislature chose to balance North Carolina’s budget by cutting the funding of state agencies, not giving state employees’ raises, and by increasing our charges for health insurance. The UNC at Chapel Hill Employee Forum has recommended a $2000 per employee raise. The budget will be tight again this year, and the legislature must again find a way to fund it.
There are two ways to balance a budget: by cutting costs and by increasing revenues. Budgets have already been cut to the bone, requiring agencies to lay off valuable employees and to get the same (or more) work done with fewer people. Failure to fund state employee salary increases has made it much more difficult for state agencies, including UNC at Chapel Hill, to hire and retain qualified employees. Further cuts would have worsening results.
The alternative is to raise more money by raising taxes. An obvious choice, which was voted down last year, is to raise the tax on tobacco. Besides just raising money in the current year, it would also reduce smoking, particularly among teens, allowing them to avoid a lifetime of nicotine addiction, and greatly reducing long-term medical costs, which are largely borne by the state. Since only a small proportion of tobacco is bought in North Carolina, this would have a negligible effect on tobacco companies, despite their protests to the contrary.
The lottery is another excellent opportunity. With all the surrounding states having lotteries, many millions of NC dollars go to fund other states’ coffers. The lottery proceeds could pay for new schools and other one-time educational expenditures, which clearly would make more money available for other programs.
Perhaps the most obvious choice, which is rarely discussed in the legislature, is raising the income tax. This is our only progressive tax, and a very small change in the income tax would go a long way.
Take your pick. State employees need a raise, and the legislature needs a source of funds to give us a raise. Cutting the budgets of state agencies is not the answer. A tobacco tax would have many positive effects, and an NC lottery would stop the bleeding of money into other states. Increasing the NC income tax would shift some of the burden back to those who gained from federal tax cuts.
Brian White, Editor
Editorials and Opinions
Editorials and opinion pieces in the InTouch do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Forum as a whole. Employees are welcome to submit opinion articles for inclusion in the InTouch newsletter.