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Employee Forum Agenda — April 1, 2009

9:15 a.m.—-Meeting: Pleasants Family Assembly Room, Wilson Library

I.            Call to Order

II.           Welcome Guests & Members of the Press

III.          Opening Remarks

IV.         Special Presentations

    • Jerry Howerton on UNC System Layoffs
    • Chuck Stone on the State Health Plan

V.          Human Resources Update—Brenda Malone

VI.         Employee Presentations or Questions

VII.       March Minutes

VIII.       Old Business

    • Executive Committee Proposal to Draft Letter in Place of Resolution 09-01
      • Resolution 09-01, Concerning the Implementation of Employee Furloughs as a Human Resources Tool to Offset Budget Reductions at UNC-Chapel Hill (First Reading)
    • Resolution 09-02, Concerning Repeal of an Ordinance by the Department of Public Safety at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (Second Reading, pdf)

IX.         New Business

X.           Stretch Time

XI.         Forum Committee Reports

  • Communications and Public Relations: Brenda Denzler
    • Forum Newsletter
  • Community Affairs, Recognition, Awards and Outreach: Beth Bridger
  • Compensation & Benefits:  Alan Moran
  • Education and Career Development:  Liz Cahoon/Cate Cunningham
  • Legislative Action:  Mike Hawkins
  • Membership & Assignments:  Aluoch Ooro
  • Staff Relations, Policies & Practices:


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

XIII.       Task Force/University Committee Reports

XIV.       Announcements/Questions

XV.        “Go Around the Room”:  A Chance for Attendees to Share the Issue Most on their Minds

XVI.        Adjournment


April 1, 2009 Forum Minutes


Chair Tommy Griffin called the meeting to order at 9:15 a.m.  He welcomed guests and members of the press.  He welcomed Jerry Howerton, former Human Resources director of WUNC to speak about his RIF(Reduction in Force) experience.  Howerton said that he had 19 years, 6 months service and had received a layoff notice on April 13.  He said that employees are often not aware of their rights in RIF situations.  He said that employees should demand a RIF plan from their departments prior to action.  Since departments have said that they can locally make decisions about personnel, now is not the time to allow them to escape responsibility for publicizing RIF criteria.  Employees have a property interest in their jobs and no one can take their jobs without due process.  Departments are required to show how they made their decisions with credible selection criteria.

Howerton said that he had laid off plenty of employees during his time with Human Resources at WUNC and at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  One can file a grievance to force departments to explain their decision.  Departments should show how they considered all other alternatives first.  Marshall Dietz expressed frustration that management has all of the information in these situations.  Brenda Denzler said that grievances are largely pro forma as they take months to work out while one can be laid off within weeks.  Howerton said that a grievance works to protect an employee’s legal rights when being laid off.  He said that an employee does not file a grievance loses the right to litigate as that employee is said to have not exhausted their administrative remedies.  Howerton said that he was not suggesting an easy course, but he said that if the University experiences hundreds of grievances it will raise public awareness of the issue.

Todd Hux asked how many people had been laid off.  Howerton said that the University was unwilling to tell.  He said that management had the right to determine the size of the staff, but must make decisions in consideration of employee’s rights.  Alan Moran asked if employees would need to waive their confidentiality rights to make others aware.  Howerton said that there was not a need for a list, but rather departments should explain how they took their decision to lay off employees.  Lucy Lewis recalled that the administrative law judge in the dental technicians case found that there were no legal consequences for the University failing to follow its own RIF policy.  Howerton said that the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) and other avenues are available to aggrieved employees.  He said that employees must get out of the University in order to win.  Denzler asked how Howerton suggested raising the level of public awareness of these grievances.  Howerton said that the free press is the key, as the University will try to control the news from the top down.  He reiterated that departments should have the right to make layoffs but the process should be done correctly.  He said that departments must not cherrypick when making layoffs.  He said that the process should explain to the employee thoroughly why their department made this decision.  He noted that this could happen to you.

The Chair welcomed SEANC (State Employee Association of North Carolina) lobbyist Chuck Stone to speak about the State Health Plan.  Stone noted that Medicare is predicted to go broke by 2018.  He noted that the USA spends twice as much money as any other country on health care but is half as effective in its expenditures.  He noted that the State had progressively cut benefits and raised premiums available through the State Health Plan.  He noted the proposed changes associated with Senate Bill 287 that would place tobacco users and individuals with a BMI (body mass index) of more than 40 in the 70/30 benefit plan.  He noted that Senate Bill 287 would drastically increase costs for State employees.  He decried the inability of State employees to audit the State Health Plan and noted calls for a blue ribbon institute to study the Plan.  An employee asked about buying alternative health insurance.  Stone said that the Blue Advantage plan provides a 5-20% profit margin for Blue Cross/Blue Shield, but is not available in all areas of the State.  Ernie Patterson commented that employees are putting off care due to health care expenses.  Lucy Lewis suggested that the Forum look at the national discussion regarding a single payer plan.  Debbie Dehart asked if the Plan would get rid of the employee/spouse option.  Stone said that this was possible.  He encouraged employees to oppose Senate Bill 287.

Dr. Kelly Hogan noted that she had nominated Dr. Martha L. “Mimi” Keever for the Employee Forum’s Community Award (3-Legged Stool) back in the fall.  She praised Keever’s support of undergraduate students who often find themselves overwhelmed by the pace and size of Carolina classes.  She was pleased to present Dr. Keever with the Forum’s award.

Associate Vice Chancellor Brenda Malone gave the Forum’s customary Human Resources update.  She reported that Human Resources was working to review and refine the career banding process.  Human Resources had updated forms associated with the WPPR process, reducing forms associated with the process from six down to two.  She said that the posting period for new jobs had been reduced from 10 days to five days.  Malone said that Human Resources had combined its classification and compensation units, redirecting staff to two areas.  In addition, Human Resources had updated its connect tool.  Malone noted that UNC was now listed among the Chronicle of Higher Education’s “Great Colleges to Work For.”

Malone said that Human Resources had tried to deal with this difficult point with honor and integrity.  Brenda Denzler asked about Claire Miller’s RIF, and Malone said that Miller had reached the end of her appointment.  Other Human Resources employees had been moved around as a consequence of restructuring.  Ernie Patterson asked the University’s position on Senate Bill 287.  Malone said that she thought the University had been very vocal through its Board of Trustees and was also working through General Administration to voice its concerns about the bill.  She was troubled about the proposed plan changes made in the bill based on employee weight, among other items.  She said that these changes could impact the University’s ability to recruit and retain employees.

Alan Moran asked about the University’s RIF policy and whether associated departmental criteria for RIFs could be laid bare.  Malone said that these complicated decisions never identify one person and all require thought and consideration.  She added that these are at the end of the day business decisions that do not follow strict seniority rules as these are not required under State policy.  These decisions follow a number of criteria, one of which is the business needs of the unit.  She said that there is always a plan in place for a unit to make sure that it is compliant with State policy.  In turn, employees have a right to question or grieve the policy to make sure the appropriate due diligence is done.  She hoped that in the end departments will have done the work to make a supportable decision.  Moran asked how the University can be rid of the rumor that layoffs are cherrypicking employees.  Malone argued that the process is not that opaque.  For instance, the communiqué to WUNC was broad-based.  Departments are charged with hard decisions and the function of these departments has to continue.  She thought that decisionmakers are willing to meet and engage about these questions.  Marshall Dietz asked about when there is no communication or notice from decisionmakers about layoffs.  Malone said that Human Resources cannot force departments to meet.  It can recommend conversations but these may not satisfy interest and curiosity.  These are hard decisions that are not made in a frivolous way.

Todd Hux asked what criteria is used to decide who is laid off.  Malone said that the community meeting went into great detail about the criteria used, which includes role competencies, performance reviews, policy hierarchies and other factors.  The policy dictates the criteria and the decision is made by working through the criteria.  These decisions are never made where everyone agrees on the particular course of action taken.  Someone must make a final decision.  Marc Duncan asked if there must be an announcement when a RIF is made.  Malone said that there not have to be but announcements are encouraged.  University Ombudsman Wayne Blair pointed out that a number of employees do not want it announced that they have been laid off, due to shame or other reasons.  Aluoch Ooro recalled her experience being laid off from jobs.  Malone said that no one from Human Resources will refuse to take a phone call from a laid off employee seeking assistance.  She said that the University was fortunate to have use of the Lee Hecht Harrison career planning services.  Debbie Dehart suggested that laid off personnel look to temporary part-time work to stay connected and active while they search for permanent positions.  Vicki Bradley of Human Resources noted that the University must follow State rules when assigning priority to laid off employees.

Sharon Hoyt asked about when employees feel they cannot be out for anything due to fear of a layoff, even a documented illness.  Malone said that if attendance is a problem, there exists a record with respect to that.  Kitty Allen said that the process should look at positions more than people, by perhaps combining crew leaders and positions.  Malone said that part of the work on how to handle reductions involves avoiding layoffs and not jumping to slash and burn.  A delegate asked that Malone address that to her management where layoffs are being used as a scare tactic.  Malone said that she was not seeing malicious intent in layoffs from her perspective.  Alan Moran saw the need for managerial supervision.  He said that perhaps Human Resources needs to force departmental transparency in these decisions to help the healing process and to insure that all is fair.  Malone said that Human Resources’ job is to insured that the policy adheres to that developed by the State and is administered as fairly and cleanly as possible.  She said that next month she would plan to discuss career banding.

The Forum discussed resolution 09-01 concerning furloughs as a means to deal with the budget crisis on first reading.  Alan Moran read the resolution.  He noted that the Compensation & Benefits Committee wanted more input from the Forum itself on the resolution.  Mike Hawkins recalled that the Executive Committee thought better to send a letter representing the Forum’s viewpoint.  Moran said that the UNC System Staff Assembly Human Resources committee had sent a letter on furloughs asking that they not be imposed on those earning below a living income.  Hawkins did not want to give any State institution the right to impose furloughs on a whim.  Moran said that the resolution did not support the use of furloughs.  Hawkins moved to table the resolution and send it back to committee.  Seventeen voted for this motion with none opposing and two abstentions.  Lucy Lewis said that she opposed the resolution now since it needs more time to continue to respond.

Jonathan Stephenson moved that the UNC Employee Forum declare itself against RIFs, furloughs, and layoffs as a means to deal with the budget crisis.  Marc Duncan seconded this motion.  The Forum voted 19 in favor and none opposing this motion.

The Forum took up resolution 09-02 concerning elimination of a parking ordinance following the ticketing of employees in the UNC Health Care Services parking deck.  Marshall Dietz said that he had taken a risk for speaking up.  Ernie Patterson thought that the Forum should have voted on the resolution earlier in the meeting.  Fourteen people voted in favor of the resolution with none opposing or abstaining.

The Chair noted plans for a community garden and asked delegates to participate.  Brenda Denzler noted the Chancellor’s proposal that the Forum use its Staff Development money to pay for print editions of InTouch.  She hoped that the Forum could vote on this proposal following the Career Development committee’s consideration at the May meeting.  Alan Moran asked that the pdf of the proposal be sent to the Forum listserv.

The Chair suggested that all departments complete and communicate RIF policies before possible layoffs.  Mike Hawkins moved that this take place.  Brenda Malone urged that proposals be grounded in reality as no departmental policy is University’s RIF policy.  Ernie Patterson said that RIF policy should be open and factual not just communicated to deans.  Todd Hux said that departmental policies may be different and more refined than what the University spells out.  Vicki Bradley said that layoff criteria are available on the web.

The meeting adjourned at 11:40 a.m.


Respectfully submitted,



Matt Banks, Recording Secretary

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