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Employee Forum Agenda — March 4, 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

    • Shana Harrington on Breast Cancer Research Control Group

V.          Human Resources Update—Brenda Malone

VI.         Employee Presentations or Questions

VII.       February Minutes

VIII.       Old Business

    • Budget Crisis

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:  Mike McQuown


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



March 4, 2009 Employee Forum Minutes


Chair Tommy Griffin  called the meeting to order at 9:15 a.m.  He noted that the Forum’s community meeting March 2 had been a very good one.  He noted that the Forum Executive Committee had been asked to work with the study group Bain & Company to discuss University operations.  He welcomed Shaunetta Harrington to make a presentation on limb mobility for breast cancer patients.  Harrington made her presentation and asked for control study volunteers from female Forum members.

The Chair introduced former Forum vice chair Jeffrey Beam to present the poem, “Song of the University Worker.”  Beam recalled his time on the Forum and the initial time that Forum representatives had addressed the Board of Trustees in 1998.  After Beam read the poem, Jackie Overton made a motion that the poem be designated by the Forum the official staff poem of the University.  Mary Campbell seconded this motion.  The Forum voted by two-thirds vote to have a second reading on the motion and then voted to approve the motion by voice vote.

The Chair recognized Associate Vice Chancellor for Human Resources Brenda Malone to make the Forum’s customary Human Resources update.  Malone appreciated the invitation to the Forum’s community meeting.  She thought it had been a model discussion of this nature.  She also noted the upcoming discount vendor’s fair to take place March 12 from 10-2 p.m. in the Great Hall of the Student Union.  The deadline to file NC Flex claims incurred by December 31, 2008 is March 31.  Employees with questions can call Benefits at 962-3071.

Regarding the State Health Plan, Jack Walker made program recommendations to change the design of the plan to eliminate the 90/10 option and to increase deductibles and copayments, among other items.  Malone emphasized that these were only recommendations that were subject to the vote of the General Assembly.  Recalling the community meeting, Brenda Denzler asked how employees would access the $445,000 associated with the Employee Assistance Fund.  Malone said that the University had contracted with Lee Hecht Harrison to gain access to outplacement services.  The money had been added to increase the access that laid-off employees would have to these services.  In addition, money was added to increase access to employee assistance providers like Susan Criscenzo, who currently works half-time for the University and half-time for the Health Care System.  The University will supplement her work with a formal employee assistance program.  If the University were to face a situation like that at Virginia Tech, it would need to find access to more counselors immediately.  She said that this is not a fund in which individuals could tap into for direct financial help.

Brenda Denzler commented that one could assume that the cost per laid-off employee is around $750, then extrapolate the number of layoffs from that figure.  Malone said that the lay off process is something that employees must let unfold.  She said that the Chancellor would keep the Carolina community aware through the various steps in the process.  Debbie Dehart asked about the status of grant-funded employees under the layoff policy.  Malone said that the legislative authority for furloughs for people on grants may not happen.  She did say that the layoff policy may affect people on grants.  Departments would look at each position’s branch role and competency.  Someone on a grant is not entirely free and clear of layoff danger.  Dehart said that the consensus among people was pro-furlough in order to save jobs, but again this requires legislative approval.

Mark Duncan asked how the State could save money by laying off people on grant funds.  What benefit could occur by laying these people off?  Malone said that there would not necessarily be a benefit, but one must look at the impact of layoffs as a whole.  All probabilities are on the table and require the Chancellor’s decision.  Guidelines for the layoffs will come from the General Assembly to come.  Under the RIF policy, someone on a grant could be laid off leaving someone on state dollars to do their work.  Thus, someone on a grant could be affected.

Ernie Patterson hoped to get information to learn if the University was spending its funds with Lee Hecht Harrison in a good manner.  Malone said that the firm has a high reputation.  However, finding out how many are placed in positions was somewhat more difficult.  She said that she would be glad to know these figures.  Malone said that people who had been laid off are actually grateful for the outplacement services in order to focus their minds on what is to come in their lives.

The Chair asked for any employee questions or presentations.  Brenda Denzler noted Steve Hutton’s comment in view of layoffs, whether employees would be willing to donate to food pantries or stockpiles like the Interfaith Council shelter.  The Chair commented that this would be a possibility, noting that the last drive raised 2.5 tons of food.  Mary Campbell noted that a number of these employees may live outside Orange County and would not receive this relief.  Ernie Patterson suggested that the Community Affairs, Recognition & Awards committee look into the question and report back to the Forum in April.  Jackie Overton noted that a number of spouses may have been laid off and could benefit from things like processed deer meat.  Debbie Dehart suggested forming a competition to raise food with the students.

The Chair asked for a motion to approve the February minutes.  Chris Carideo made this motion, seconded by Brenda Denzler.  The minutes were approved.

The Chair asked if there were any old business.  Lucy Lewis said that she opposed any effort to separate University employees from State employees.  She expressed a concern about furlough approved only for University employees, as opposed for all State employees.  She did not want the two categories treated separately.  Marc Duncan agreed, saying that he thought that General Administration’s drive for furlough authority would be a door to open to Article 16.  He thought that the State knew better than UNC in this area.  Faith Thompson was not certain if a resolution was the best way to avoid this separation, or whether the Forum should ask the University System to avoid this linkage directly.

Alan Moran of the Compensation & Benefits committee read resolution 09-01.  He echoed Lewis’ comments, saying that the Forum should not endorse furloughs.   Resolution 09-01 has a list of caveats about furloughs.  Todd Hux asked how much twice the national poverty level is, and Moran said the level is $44,100 for a family of four, according to the NC Justice Center.  He said that the federal poverty level was not enough for a family to live on.  Brenda Denzler said that the resolution was a good one and said that she agreed with Lewis’ comments about furloughs.  However, she favored an attitude more pro-furlough in light of possible layoffs.  Moran said that the option needs to be enacted across the State.  He made the analogy that it would be best not to cut either a foot or a leg off, if given the choice.  Denzler said that one would still have one’s leg in a cast if the analogy to furloughs is closely followed.  Moran pointed out that the University has the authority to implement RIFs (Reductions in Force) but not furloughs.  Mike Hawkins suggested that the resolution propose that the State implement authority for furloughs across all of its agencies, not just the University.

Marc ter Horst said that he liked the tenor of the statements in the resolution, particularly the section that would advocate furloughs only if necessary to protect against something worse.  He also liked the section that said the State should reevaluate the need for furloughs after a certain time period, until the crisis is over.

Moran suggested that the Executive Committee address wording of the resolution and present it for second reading in April.  Debbie Dehart asked SEANC’s stance on furloughs. The Chair said that the SEANC Board of Governors opposed furloughs.  Marc Duncan said that the Forum should ask President Bowles to cease and desist his request for furloughs given that they open the door to Article 16’s passage.  Instead, the Forum should press for statewide approval of furloughs.  Moran pointed out that furloughs would likely impact employees’ benefits and retirement.  Aluoch Ooro said that she was greatly against furloughs given the realities of research work and the academic calendar.  Brenda Malone said that there are many variables but that these would be managed if furloughs came to pass.  This would not become the “Wild Wild West.”  Brenda Denzler suggested implementing a one day a month furlough if these were to come to pass, all planned in coordination with one’s supervisor.  Mike McQuown moved that the Executive Committee consider the resolution at its next meeting and then pass its recommendations to other committees.  This motion was approved with 27 votes with 2 abstentions.  At this point, the Forum took a ten minute break.


The Chair brought the meeting back to order.  He introduced Marshall Dietz to read resolution 09-02, regarding a repeal of a parking ordinance forbidding employee parking in patient or visitor decks near the UNC Hospitals.  Dietz said that the parking ordinance had not been published on the web and so employees and others should not be punished for violating it.  Brenda Denzler noted that on August 15, 2008, all of the University parking ordinances had been wiped off the books.  She asked if this ordinance had not been published in the new parking ordinances.  Dietz said that it had but that the ordinance was not transparent to all.  He said that people were caught in a quagmire because of inadequate signage at the parking decks.  Mike McQuown said that Public Safety had replaced the complete sign since the last Forum meeting.  He thought that the sign should be simplified with a basic listing of the ordinance and a phone number to call if one mistakenly receives a ticket.

Dietz recalled the case of an 83-year old woman who parked their personal car there who had received tickets because the car was listed ten years ago on a relative’s listing of automobiles.  Mary Campbell asked why this car was still on Public Safety’s list.  The Chair noted that Public Safety had fined two people from 800 ticketed so far.  Lucy Lewis was glad that this subject was still active.  She asked that the Chair continue to speak with the Advisory Committee on Transportation (ACT) to find ways to improve this process and avoid ticketing those who should not be ticketed.

The Chair called for a motion to adjourn.  Mike Hawkins took a point of personal privilege to praise the Chair for his kind and feeling remarks at the community meeting March 2.  He praised the Chair as one who is not afraid to have the Forum do difficult things to support staff.  Jackie Overton similarly praised the Chair, noting that in her department employees who had seen the remarks were impressed by the Chair’s evident feeling for everyday employees about to be laid off.  Lucy Lewis similarly praised the show of emotion as appropriate and evident of real empathy.  The Forum then moved to adjourn at 11:34 a.m.


Respectfully submitted,


Matt Banks, Recording Secretary

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