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InTouch:  UNC Employee Forum News
Volume 7, Number 4 June 2006

From the Chair, Ernie Patterson…
 From the Chair’s Presentation to the Board of Trustees

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill can no longer afford to be known only as an institution of higher learning.  To meet the challenges that are coming our way over the next decades, we must become an institution of lifetime learning.  Given the challenges that workers will face in competing for and holding jobs today and in the future, we must be prepared to continually provide our students, staff, and faculty with the tools they will need to remain competitive.  At Carolina, we have already begun to do this.

For almost a decade, UNC-Chapel Hill has had a program to help employees in the lower salary grades receive training in basic clerical skills that will enable them to find better-paying jobs.   This program has had over 100 graduates since its inception.   As part of its efforts to promote staff development, the Employee Forum is planning devote a portion of the funds from its staff development endowment to add an internship component to this program.  This will allow the graduates to gain real-world experience using the skills they have practiced in class.   The goal is to provide them with the equivalent of a full year of experience that they can reference as part of their application for better-paying jobs.

UNC-Chapel Hill needs to make a commitment to providing similar staff development opportunities for employees at all salary grades.   Everyone needs to be encouraged and rewarded for efforts to improve themselves, whether that improvement enhances current job skills or teaches the worker a brand new set of skills.  Although we have taken important steps to make this happen (specifically, the tuition waiver program and the tuition reimbursement program), there are still a number of problems.  Some employees have to forfeit opportunities to take work-related workshops and courses because these are not covered by the existing assistance programs and their departments cannot afford to underwrite the cost.  Other employees work under supervisors who continue to resist any kind of training—whether an employee wants to enhance current job skills, learn new ones, or just broaden their understanding of the world.

The Forum would like to ask the Board of Trustees to make it a priority next year to establish a Learning Enhancement Program at UNC-Chapel Hill that would do the following:


  • Provide full funding for departments to support employees’ continuing education
  • Provide full funding for employees to retrain themselves for other jobs that our campus will need, much as the Basic Clerical Skills program does
  • Provide that employees can count the actual time spent in class in up to two courses per year as work time
  • Provide incentives for supervisors and upper management to allow them to support and buy in to a life long learning initiative


These initiatives will be an important step in making UNC-Chapel Hill an institution of lifelong learning not just for its faculty and students, but for its staff as well.   We would like your support to work with Chancellor Moeser and Kevin Fitzgerald on having this proposal included as a UNC initiative in the Board of Governors list of priorities for next legislative session.


Fond Farewell

The Forum said good-bye to two strong friends this month, as Provost Robert Shelton and Vice Chancellor Nancy Suttenfield now move on to opportunities on other campuses.

Shelton will serve as the 19th President of the University of Arizona, his term starting July 1, 2006.  Shelton was known as a warm administrator who took an active interest in the concerns and opinions of staff employees.

He, Suttenfield, and Associate Vice Chancellor for Human Resources Laurie Charest began a monthly practice of meeting with Forum delegates to pinpoint and address emerging concerns across campus.  Shelton was a breath of “California Cool” in the corridors of South Building and will be missed.

Suttenfield will begin as Wake Forest University’s senior vice president and chief financial officer on August 1, 2006.  Suttenfield oversaw efforts to implement a new Human Resources generalist system and spearheaded implementation of the recommendations of the Chancellor’s Task Force for a Better Workplace.  She also participated in the aforementioned monthly meetings with Forum delegates and, along with Charest, oversaw the pursuit of concerns raised in those meetings.  Suttenfield worked with the Carolina Women’s Center to procure office space for the Employee Forum in the winter of 2001.  Suttenfield was a quiet administrator but had a great feeling for staff concerns.  She also will be missed.

PPO Enrollment Facts & Websites

PPO Enrollment Facts and Websites:

Enrollment period

May 22 – June 30, 2006. Employees can submit the completed enrollment form at any time after receiving the enrollment materials (this information from UNC HR at

Online Information

The State Health Plan has provided benefit summaries, cost comparisons and FAQ’s regarding the new Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) options, which are being introduced this summer and will be effective Oct. 1, 2006. To review the State Health Plan’s online information, go to

Current State Health Plan Members

To go directly to the online version of the enrollment package for current State Health Plan members, go to Even those who do not wish to enroll in the PPO must complete a form. The form is available at Print and complete this and then send it to UNC HR.


To go directly to the online version of the enrollment package for employees who are not currently State Health Plan members, go to


Supplemental Retirement Programs


As of June 1, State employees have a new supplemental retirement option.  Employees can begin making after-tax contributions to a new Roth NC 401(k) plan, which, like the pre-tax 401(k) plan, will be administered by Prudential Insurance Company.  The advantage of making after-tax contributions is that the investment will grow tax-deferred and, potentially, tax-free.

Contact UNC’s NC 401(k) representative, Barry Rosette, at or 919-329-0747, to learn more.  Employees can also find more info at and at

Ervin Wins Employee Forum Community Award

The Employee Forum Community Award (also known as the Three

Legged Stool Award) was given at the Forum’s May meeting to Dr. Archie Ervin, the Associate Provost for Diversity and Multicultural Affairs.  The Award is designed to recognize distinguished contributions by individuals who work to promote cooperation and collaboration among Faculty, Staff and Students.

The award criteria specify that nominees should be individuals who inspire creativity; promote harmony and partnerships within the University community; inspire teamwork, cooperation and participation; demonstrate new approaches to current processes; encourage, mentor and build bridges; form alliances to work collectively; or any other significant community building activities.

Dr. Ervin celebrates 20 years at Carolina this year, from his 1986 appointment as the Assistant to the Vice Chancellor for University Affairs.  Since that time, he has held several administrative positions and he has chaired and served on numerous university committees, ad hoc groups and advisory boards.

Throughout his two decades at Carolina, Dr. Ervin has focused on the development of programs and strategies that have contributed to the increased diversity of the undergraduate student population and to greater accessibility to higher education for all citizens of the state of North Carolina.

During 2004-2005, he chaired the Chancellor’s Task Force on Diversity and this past year he chaired the committee that drafted a diversity plan for the university.

He has been a mentor and advisor to countless students, faculty and staff, and a crucial bridge between all three groups as he strived to ensure a diverse university community.

In 1995, he received the University’s Massey Award for Public Service, in recognition of his leadership and service to the university.

Dean Bernadette Gray-Little presented Dr. Ervin with the Award, saying that, “this year, it is fitting that we present him with the Three-Legged Stool Award, which recognizes him for promoting cooperation and collaboration between and among faculty, staff and students.

“Archie understands, lives and breathes, the concept of the Three-Legged Stool: that Carolina’s excellence and reputation depends on faculty, students and staff all working together for the enhancement of the University, the state and the world.”

Provost Robert Shelton wrote in nominating Ervin for the Award that “Dr. Archie Ervin is a tireless and effective spokesperson for harmony and partnerships at Carolina. Through his leadership, minority and majority communities come together in programs to advance the educational and outreach mission of our university.

“Dr. Ervin is a key player in the Pogue Scholarship Program, in the Summer Bridge Program, in Pre-Orientation Programs for new students, and in numerous activities that serve our students.

“And Dr. Ervin was the central player in bringing greater recognition to the African American community that made essential contributions to building UNC Chapel Hill into a great university in the 21st century.

“In addition to his work on campus, Dr. Ervin has contacts throughout the state that engender good will towards Carolina.”

Past winners of the Award are James Peacock, Paul Hardin, Rachel Windham, Elson Floyd, Laurie Charest, Jack Evans, Linwood Futrelle, Susan Ehringhaus, Tommy Womble and Eric Mlyn.

Opinion: Turnover Crisis:  The Collective Bargaining Solution

 by Steve Hutton


Many states are experiencing unprecedented levels of public employee turnover.  North Carolina is no exception.  This crisis has been precipitated by years of tight budgets and the escalating costs of health care.  While the exact costs of turnover are unknown, it’s clear they are now so high that the failure to invest in salaries and benefits is actually costing taxpayers more.

The true cost of turnover:  $330 million

As a rule of thumb, turnover greater than 10 percent is detrimental to any business.  In 2005, turnover among most permanent state employees was 11.8 percent, up from 11.2 percent in 2004.   Experts estimate the cost of replacing an employee to be between 50 percent and 250 percent of the position’s salary.  The Office of State Personnel, using a conservative 100 percent figure, calculates the cost of 2005 employee turnover at approximately $330 million.  (Source:  Office of State Personnel “State of North Carolina Compensation and Benefits Report May 2006”)

According to OSP reports, approximately 32 percent of turnover occurs among employees with less than two years service, and over 40 percent with less than three.  Being vested for retirement and health care after five years apparently provides little incentive.  Low salaries, poor benefits, lack of training, minimal opportunities for advancement and anti-family policies cause over two-thirds of new hires to leave within three years.  That’s at least a $150 million per year cost for a revolving door among 20,000 positions.  Moreover, one cannot assume that turnover among younger employees is less costly than average.  The recently banded, high-tech occupations are experiencing turnover greater than 16 percent.

Add to the mix the prospective increase in retirements among baby-boomers, and the rubber-band effect emerges.  Excessive turnover among both the younger and the older will stretch those in the middle to the limits.  Many current employees with less than 20 years of service will spend 50 percent or more of their time training other employees.

A solution:  Retention through collective bargaining

One solution to this crisis is to change the law prohibiting collective bargaining.  According to a study using 1997 data, voluntary turnover would drop by 43 percent if collective bargaining were implemented  (Source:  The Impact of Public Sector Unions on Government Operations and Worker Welfare in the United States. Leiter, Jeffrey and Twiddy, Susan. 2004).  That would have saved North Carolina nearly $130 million in 2005 alone—enough to fund an additional 2 percent salary increase.  This means that the improved salaries and benefits associated with collective bargaining don’t necessarily translate into higher costs for taxpayers.

This result may seem surprising, but the reality is that collective bargaining requires that management and employees negotiate.  Often employee representatives bring many cost-saving ideas to the table in hopes of translating these into salary and benefit gains.  Additionally, labor associations tend to protect the jobs of permanent employees vis-à-vis temporaries.  Collective bargaining agreements also have a decent record of protecting career paths and for ensuring that women and minorities are treated equally, which contributes to their retention.  Finally, contracts specify dispute resolution procedures so that workplace conflict is reduced.  Intra- and inter-agency competition for resources is also diminished.  Thus, government becomes more efficient and less costly (Source:  Public Employee Bargaining under Prohibitive Legislation:  Some Unanticipated Consequences, Journal of Collective Negotiations).

States with collective bargaining have fared better during recent budget crises.  That doesn’t mean that their employees got rich at the public’s expense.  It means that their legislators and executives have enough experience with collective bargaining to appreciate its role in retaining good employees during the darkest times.  They understand that employee retention is good fiscal policy—that conserving people is fiscally conservative.