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February 15, 2022 Employee Forum Executive Committee minutes

Attending: L.E. Alexander, Jessye Bongiovanni, Sharron Bouquin, Shane Brogan, Tiffany Carver, Jen DeNeal, Shayla Evans-Hollingsworth, Stephanie Forman, Chrissie Greenberg, Leah Hefner, Shayna Hill, Keith Hines, James Holman, Brigitte Ironside, Kira Jones, Anthony Lindsey, Arlene Medder, Katie Musgrove, Natiaya Neal, Joseph Nsonwu-Farley, Brooke O’Neal, Laura Pratt, Steele, Matthew Teal, Tracy Wetherby-Williams, Alice Whiteside, Tracey Wiley, Jacob Womack

Chair Katie Musgrove called the meeting to order at 11:32 a.m. She welcomed Senior Director of Classification and Compensation Adam Beck to discuss career banding matters. Beck noted that the University finally had an across-the-board adjustment for the first time in quite a while. Additionally, there was an allowance for a discretionary increase for SHRA employees. This year, the ranges did not move by the same percentage as the MSI, which is normally done. Beck added that there is a possibility of a targeted occupational groups move as well.

Beck said that all ranges were moved up a certain percentage, and the Office of State Human Resources (OSHR) allowed market rate increases up to 110% of market rate as well. This change requires less documentation than previously, which gives his office some flexibility.

Beck said that challenges have arisen in the opening of job titles that have not been used before which has led to a loosening of the reins of what is allowed at certain levels. The University has survey documentation that it is behind market rate and showing turnover in areas in which recruitment pools are very small, leading to an inability to fill positions in certain areas.

In the short term, Beck hoped for a bit of relief in salary ranges and in the long term, it is believed that the University will eventually move into a single, integrated system with other State agencies. There were similar changes done in 2017, with immediate challenges around salary administration.

Beck recalled that the System Office has said that it will not join anything that does not fix problems and is in fact problematic. The Office is pushing for the University System to have its own salary administration policy that can administer as it sees fit. Beck added that the State could decree that the University System enter a Statewide salary administration policy.

Beck said that the University is moving into an integrated system requiring at least two years implementation. An advantage of this course would be the unique job titles created for the University System. He thought that UNC-Chapel Hill could work to plug holes in place now. He added that public communications and grants administration positions seem far behind as lacking good data and good titles.

Beck invited questions about his remarks and his belief that the University will eventually merge into a single, yet undefined, system. The Chair asked if Beck had any insight into how this system might differ from the current career planning system. Beck said that there will likely be a mix between what is in place now and career banding and the old graded system. More titles and more levels of each title would be assigned to around 30 bands.

Stephanie Forman asked what Beck meant regarding flexibility to go 110% over existing market rates and its implications for the next opportunity for raises, once implemented. Beck noted that any increase must fall within one of the valid reasons for a raise, and one of these reasons is market rate.  An employee can be raised up just to the established market rate for their classification level. Now, rules allow agencies to use the market rate reason to go up to 110% of that price point. Market rate is the reason requiring the least amount of documentation, so long as the increase does not create an equity issue. This change does give flexibility for movement in this area. This change was an acknowledgment by OSHR that the markets have changed, that it has not done a full study, so agencies are allowed to go a little higher in salary ranges with less documentation than before. He added that none of these rates are really market anymore so people should stop using this term.

The Chair confirmed that the primary way that the State is providing SHRA employees increases is through so-called market rate increases.  Beck said that market or equity reasons are valid for SHRA increases this term, but merit increases are not deemed valid. These criteria and their administration were set by the Office of State Human Resources.

Laura Pratt confirmed that SHRA employees are governed by OSHR while EHRA employees are governed by the Board of Governors. Here at UNC-Chapel Hill, management flexibility governs EHRA employees, with ranges approved by the Board of Trustees. Other System campuses have the Board of Governors set these EHRA ranges. Pratt asked if the 20% rule would apply for an SHRA employee moving to an EHRA position. Beck said that the rule would apply if the hire were on the same campus. An EHRA hire on another campus is considered a new hire. The Chair noted hopes that the 20% rule will soon be dissolved.

Stephanie Forman asked what opportunities Beck envisioned for additional increases and pay for UNC staff and incoming employees. She noted the demoralizing effect of inflation and the cost of living which seem to make UNC an unsustainable place to work. Beck said that long range policies always come down to funding. He noted that the System Office is relatively well funded compared to other State agencies.

However, there are some campuses that cannot come anywhere close to paying market rates even with these outdated ranges. Thus, the System Office must be very sensitive about moving people away from ranges that these campuses cannot meet. There are areas like IT and finance positions that the System Office opened up an EHRA option for employees to choose. This option provides flexibility and ranges in those particular classifications, but still depend on available funding.

The Chair noted that the University does not have local authority to provide cost of living adjustments for the higher cost of living in the Triangle. She asked if Beck thought that advocating for this authority from the Legislature made sense to do in the interim two or three years before the rollout of the new career banding system. Beck said that he personally would provide some kind of geographic differential to explore this option. He added that the Office of State Human Resources usually maintains a one-size-fits-all mindset on these questions. Still, there have been certain areas which have used metropolitan rates, particularly in public safety and some engineer classes. He hoped that this expansion would continue in a new system.

The Chair hoped to work with the Office of Human Resources here at UNC-Chapel Hill to advocate for cost-of-living raise availability. Beck said that the OSHR response could be to direct critics to the 110% market rate option described earlier. He offered that the 110% option could work as a geographical differential, hopefully with the new pay plan. He thought that much has to do with salary survey sources used to set ranges. He hoped that the State could expand its survey range beyond the Southeast, which can be a bit limiting in comparison to national numbers.

Beck said that the State has commissioned nine different salary surveys to set banding rates, with many based on Southeast regional sources that are not the best match for the Triangle market. He said that the State has not maintained these surveys beyond a few areas over the years. Instead,  the State revisited classifications and did new market surveys for certain job families. Still, overall, the State either revamped classifications by raising every range by the amount of an MSI or by 5.8%, as was done in 2018. The State has not conducted a market study overall except for those targeted job classes.

Beck clarified that with EHRA salaries, OSHR works with a consultant to update ranges every three years, with average cost of living increases simply added to ranges. The Chair thought that the Forum could advocate marrying the EHRA and SHRA systems together in some way to provide more regularly updated ranges.

Chrissie Greenberg asked via the chat about more frequent market studies using better market locations. Beck said that was the original plan upon entry into the career banding system, but this plan was not maintained in the face of politics. Instead, OSHR has never fully converted into the career banding system and finally stopped fully maintaining the system altogether. The State universities are the only agencies that follow this system anymore, Beck said.

Jacob Womack asked the advocacy point between the Legislature and the UNC System. Where might the Forum best concentrate its efforts? Beck said that each year campuses put forth priorities to the System Office, which then in turn dispatches legislative liaisons who work with the Legislature on these top priorities. These priorities could be educational, human resources, or financial issues, among others.

The EHRA option conversion emerged from legislative liaisons’ advocacy for this priority. Beck granted that there are some areas which are difficult to differentiate between a policy change approved by the System and changes requiring legislative action. He said that the Board of Governors and the System Office administers EHRA, in a delegation of authority from OSHR. This authority does not include an option to change the original policy set by OSHR.

Joseph Nsonwu-Farley asked if the University System could use changes at other State agencies as a guidepost to push for salary increases. Beck recalled that the University System was denied the 2.5% increases in 2019 and 2020. He suspected that the discretionary increases to 110% were made available to make up for some part of this lost revenue. Beck thought that OSHR might choose to advocate for a single system because maintaining both has become administratively burdensome.

The Chair thanked Beck for his informative thoughts about the State’s classification and compensation system. She invited Beck to stay as the committee moved to the next section of its agenda. She called for a motion to approve the minutes of the January meeting. Arlene Medder made this motion, seconded by Laura Pratt. The motion was approved without opposition.

The Chair asked Tracy Wetherby Williams and Matt Banks to present proposals for swag for the upcoming Employee Wellness event. Banks presented the proposal and the budget report and answered questions from the committee. The Chair noted that any items purchased would need to be used by the employee community outside the Forum. Members discussed their favorite selections and advised use of $4,500 for this purpose, pending approval from the OHR Business Office. Keith Hines suggested using a contact of his to expedite the order who would also forego set-up charges. He offered to introduce Banks to his contact.

The committee next discussed planning for the March 25th community meeting. Vice Chair Keith Hines will lead that effort. Hines thanked Laura Pratt and Jessye Bongiovanni for their work on this meeting. Tiffany Carver said that 30th anniversary event planning is also underway, with hopes of an event occurring in October. The Chair said that she would approach the Chancellor’s Office about possibly funding this event. Shane Brogan said that the Communications and Public Relations committee had decided to postpone the scavenger hunt in October. He was uncertain as to the committee’s stance regarding the March 18th wellness event.

Matt Banks outlined the Forum’s delegate election process. He noted that the process had become fairly automated in recent years.

Stephanie Forman read a draft of resolution 22-02 concerning the Housekeeping department. She noted that the committee plans to introduce this resolution on first reading at the March 2nd general meeting. The Chair recalled that she had planned to write a letter on this subject with the leaders of the faculty, student body, and graduate students. She read a draft of this letter. Forman led the committee in fielding edits from the committee. Members discussed the merits of the resolution. The Chair praised the Personnel Issues committee’s work in drafting and refining this resolution for presentation to the full Forum.

Jacob Womack noted that the Community Service committee is working to start a charitable drive for the Ronald McDonald House. The Chair discussed possible speakers for the March meeting.

In the absence of further discussion, the meeting adjourned at 1:29 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,

Matt Banks, Recording Secretary

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