Employee Forum Agenda
May 4, 2011
NOTICE: The Forum’s annual portrait will take place on the steps of Wilson Library at 9:05 a.m. before the meeting. Please don’t be late for the photograph!
9:15 a.m. —-Meeting: Pleasants Family Assembly Room, Wilson Library
I. Call to Order
II. Welcome Guests & Members of the Press
III. Special Presentations
- Swearing in of New Delegates
IV. Human Resources Update—Vice Chancellor Brenda Malone
V. Approval of April Minutes
VI. Old Business
- Resolution 11-01 Concerning the Promotion of Fair and Equitable Human Resources Policies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (Tabled)
- Resolution 11-02 Concerning Sexual Harassment and Sexual Assault (Second Reading)
- Personnel Flexibility Proposal (Senate Bill 575)
- Tom Ross, President of UNC General Administration
- William Fleming, Vice President for Human Resources of UNC General Administration
- Ann Lemmon, Associate Vice President for Human Resources of UNC General Administration
- Tom Shanahan, Associate Vice President for Legal Affairs of UNC General Administration
VII. New Business
- Officer Candidate Speeches
VIII. Forum Committee Reports
- Carolina Community Garden Advisory: Joshua Boone (April 6 minutes)
- Communications and Public Relations: Carrie Aldrich
- Compensation & Benefits: Dan Barmmer
- Education and Career Development:
- Legislative Action: Danny Nguyen
- Membership & Assignments: Myra Quick
- Recognition & Awards: Chris Meinecke
- Staff Relations, Policies & Practices: James Holman ( March 30 minutes)
- UNC System Staff Assembly: Chuck Brink
- Executive Committee: Jackie Overton
Employee Forum May 4, 2011 minutes
The Chair called the meeting to order at 9:15 a.m. She welcomed members of the press, and new and old delegates. She said that she had rescheduled Carolina Counts presentations from Carolyn Elfland in order to make time to discuss the personnel flexibility issue. The Chair led a rendition of the Forum Charge, and then conducted a round of introductions for incoming and outgoing delegates.
The Chair noted that this was Employee Appreciation Week. She noted that the new delegates had attended the May 2 orientation. She introduced Senior Director of Human Resources Gena Carter to present the Forum’s customary Human Resources update. Carter noted that annual reviews must be compiled by May 31 and be inputted into the Human Resources Information System (HRIS) between May 16 and June 24. Interim Benefits Counseling Director Ashley Nicklis said that health insurance enrollment will take place between May 9 and June 8. As of that day, there would be no premium increases and employees would have to attest to their body mass index (BMI) and tobacco use. All employees will be placed in the 70/30 plan unless they attest to BMI of less than 40 and no tobacco use or participation in a tobacco cessation program. The State Health plan will now cover dependents up to age 26 and will remove preexisting condition disqualifications for those under age 19. She said that the University might have to undergo a second enrollment if the Legislature changes the fee structure for the State Health Plan. Chuck Brink asked if there were an approved BMI chart. Nicklis said that the enrolling website will contain a BMI calculator. Alan Moran asked if Human Resources would undertake an enrollment campaign to help employees without computer access. Nicklis said that Human Resources had pulled around 600 employees and is attempting to find computer space to enroll these employees. Moran asked if there were a contingency plan in place if employees do not receive the information. Nicklis said that employees must fill out the information themselves as the attestation represents a legally binding document. Jonathan Stephenson asked about opting out of the State Health Plan. David Schwarz confirmed that employees would not receive money back if they chose to not enroll in the plan. Stephenson said that his premiums under the State Plan had become unaffordable so he had chosen to enroll in his wife’s plan at Duke University.
The Chair called for a motion to approve the minutes of the April meeting. Dan Barmmer made this motion seconded by Chuck Brink. The motion was approved by acclamation.
Carleta Long read resolution 11-01 concerning promotion of fair and equitable Human Resources policies at UNC-Chapel Hill. The Chair noted that this resolution was under consideration on second reading. Dan Barmmer suggested that the resolution remove the requirement that the Chancellor approve all policies. Charles Streeter said that departments have the right to make policies without the approval of the Chancellor or Human Resources. Barmmer said that the definition of policy in this instance meant those areas which could have a negative impact on pay or benefits. Associate Vice Chancellor for Human Resources Matt Brody said that University-wide policies are approved by the Vice Chancellor for Human Resources or the Chancellor. He said that it is not viable to require such high level approval for work rules and standard operating procedures which number in the hundreds. Jessica O’Hara disagreed with the direct reference to Facilities Services in the resolution. Marc ter Horst said that only severe policies resulting in a loss of pay or benefits should receive high-level approval. He thought it alright to remove the Chancellor from the list in the resolution. Carter noted the distinction between policies that are administered differently between or within departments and policies that are written differently. Aaron Williams asked if workplace violence should fall within the resolution. O’Hara moved that the Forum send the resolution back to committee to rewrite the last paragraph distinguishing between policies and standard operating procedures. James Holman said that he would send the resolution to the Forum listserv to get edits and thoughts from members. The motion was approved by acclamation.
In the interest of time, the Chair asked that the Forum take up resolution 11-02 at the June 1 meeting. The Forum agreed to this request by acclamation.
The Chair introduced UNC System President Tom Ross, noting that Ross had taken office on January 1. Ross noted his background as a Superior Court judge and Davidson College president. Ross said that he tried to manage his departments in an inclusive way. He invited employees to check out his record as a manager. Ross had received questions as to why the University System had sought personnel flexibility this year. He said that his office had consulted with University leaders to find policies that would be most helpful to campus operations. He had received a lengthy list that included construction, planning, real estate, and human resources initiatives. He said that the University was pursuing the opportunity to design a new personnel system to do more for the University with no intent to change the rights and status of University employees. He said that some misinformation had circulated about the initiative. Ross noted the move of Health Care System (HCS) employees out from under the State Personnel Commission that had led to the use of non-State dollars to improve staff salaries. He noted that the community college system was not part of State Personnel Act and had retained protections. He proposed a hypothetical situation in which the University chose to close down between Christmas and New Year’s, excepting laboratory work and paying staff. He said that the University could not do this under the current system. Ross noted that University staff have not received a pay increase for 3-4 years. Ross said that the Board of Governors is more likely to feel love and care for University employees than is the General Assembly. The Board knows that the University will not run well without its employees. He did not know that a sense of mutual interest extends beyond the University.
Ross noted questions as to why the University General Administration had not authored a detailed plan concerning personnel flexibility for general consumption. He said that General Administration did not want to give the Legislature a plan it could dismantle piecemeal. He said that it was not true that the plan would make employees at-will. Ross offered the assistance of his staff to answer questions from the Forum. Marc ter Horst asked if Ross could speak on the question of property rights. Ross said that at-will employees can be terminated at will for any reason with no notice required. State employees are terminable for-cause. He said that General Administration had demonstrated an intention to keep the for-cause designation. He noted that EPA employees and most private employees work under the at-will label. With regard to property rights, Ross said that if an interest is brought into an employee agreement, the court calls this a property right. The property right concept brings into play rights such as due process. Jonathan Stephenson noted the case of Still v. Lance and asked whether property rights would be retained if they were not mentioned in statute. Ross said that property rights do not have to be mentioned in statute to be retained. Associate Vice President for Legal Affairs Tom Shanahan reiterated that statures or ordinances are not the only way to create property rights. Moran noted the fear that some employees believe that statutory rights are more difficult to change than policy rights. Ross said that employees will have the most direct input to possible changes. He emphasized that this is not a zero-sum game.
Mary Mackenzie asked if Ross could give other examples of possible changes such as closing for the Christmas through New Year’s period. Ross said that the Health Care System uses non-State revenue for salary increases. He said that he could not make promises as the University will take a big hit from the State this year. William Fleming, Vice President for Human Resources, said that one size will not fit all situations at the University. He said that the onus is on the University to improve itself, including in its evaluation system. He noted that the Staff Assembly and other universities will study this question as to what will work best for the University. Jennie Brooks asked whether the Board of Governors would have authority to increase the number of tuition waiver classes back to three from the current two per year. Ross said that this step would take specific legislative action. He noted that the House budget would prohibit the University System from raising tuition for two years, with no bonuses allotted to employees. He said that the University could devise a good personnel system. Carleta Long asked if the University could negotiate with health care companies besides Blue Cross/Blue Shield. Ross said that the bill exempts the State Health plan from the move.
Danny Nguyen asked under what scenario would the personnel flexibility shift benefit front-line employees. Fleming said that the use of non-State funds for staff salaries and increased flexibility in vacation policies represent two areas in which SPA employees would see the benefits of the move. Ashley Fogle asked about increasing parental leave for SPA and EPA non-faculty under this move. Ross said that nothing would prohibit the University from considering this option but costs would play a large factor. Chuck Brink asked if all employees would have policies equally applied under the new system. Ross said that there are differences in administering faculty. He said that there would be no need to keep the designations SPA and EPA non-faculty employees. He said that it was a possibility that the University would move EPA non-faculty employees to just cause. Fleming said that the University would move methodically in order not to contravene federal law. Brink asked if SPA exempt employees would receive overtime or compensatory time under the new plan. Fleming said that these are usually highly paid employees who do not usually earn compensatory time. James Holman asked how the change would affect grievance procedures. Ross said that there could be changes but these would be developed with employees in the process. Fleming envisioned that there would still be campus-based grievance policies that would not change overnight. Laurie Birdsong asked how State service and bonus issues would be affected by the move to personnel flexibility. Ross said that Health Care System employees are still State employees. Associate Vice President of Human Resources Ann Lemmon said that their State service levels would not be affected. Elizabeth Craig noted that Senate Bill 575 had been pulled from consideration by the Legislature. Ross said that the bill would be reintroduced after a technical adjustment. Mackenzie asked if the rationale for the bill was to save money. Ross said that was part of the idea, but these savings will mainly result through saving employee time on redundant procedures. Flexibility will increase morale and should change policies to make the University more attractive to life employees. David Schwarz observed that the University is asking employees to give up something familiar. He asked why the University could not provide a more detailed picture of what would occur. Ross thought that employees would come out worse in the Legislature than within the Board of Governors. Ter Horst thought that the University should articulate a process to staff on how changes would occur. Ross said that the Staff Assembly will form the basis of these changes among many other groups of staff. The bill would take effect at the earliest on January 1, 2012. The proposed changes will not take place without an inclusive process. Ter Horst asked about a meeting schedule and representatives. Ross said that this work would begin in the weeks following the bill’s passage. Ross thanked the Forum for the chance to speak and said he would be glad to return at a future date.
Fleming said that the University was trying to strike a reasonable balance between work done before and after passage of the bill. He said that a small taskforce would work on key details of policies that need attention. Employees will have multiple opportunities to provide input to the taskforce which will make recommendations to the Board of Governors. Holman did not want to lose certain rights and asked why they were not written into the bill. Associate Vice President for Legal Affairs Tom Shanahan said that all of the rights that UNC employees now enjoy are undefined in statute but still exist. These rights are instead defined in UNC policies. Senate Bill 575 would transfer authority to the University. Brink asked if policies would be approved across the System. Shanahan said that everyone wants fair and equitable policies across the System, but there are extensive differences between System institutions. He said that the University would not take a one size fits all approach, but would follow broad parameters for fair and equitable policies. The University does not have the same type of jobs that the Department of Corrections or Department of Transportation do.
John Gallo asked if President Ross had reached out to organizations such as the State Employees’ Association of North Carolina (SEANC) to discuss changes. Fleming said that UNC System Staff Assembly chair Kelley Eaves-Boykin and UNC-Chapel Hill Employee Forum Chair had met with SEANC leadership and General Administration officials. Shanahan said that he had reached out to SEANC General Counsel to be available to say where their position was wrong, but was not taken up on the offer. Fleming said that other campuses have deliberated about the proposed change. He noted that General Administration had distributed information about the bill to the Staff Assembly before releasing it to the media or even the Governor. Fleming said that there are many situations that the University is trying to deal with all at once given budget cuts already taken and in motion. Jonathan Stephenson said that SEANC General Counsel have fought hard and been successful in the courts. He said that there has been more dialogue than any time in the last ten years. He still worried that without statutory guarantees, employees are relying on little more than a promise. Shanahan said that case law found that property interests are created through statutes, ordinances, and mutually specific understandings. A more current case from the North Carolina Court of Appeals in 2000 reaffirmed the finding that property interests are created in number of different ways. Fleming commented that he had often had situation in which SPA employees seek to become EPA non-faculty but never the reverse. He granted that he did not know the climate here at UNC-Chapel Hill, however. Myra Quick said that constituencies now are concerned about job stability. Fleming noted that his wife serves in an EPA position but had never been at-will.
The Chair noted that the Forum had been instrumental in the change of dial-out prefix from ‘9’ to ‘7’ due to the number of erroneous 911 calls. She noted that the Forum will hold its annual retreat June 1 and will host a community meeting with Chancellor Thorp and Vice Chancellor Malone on June 8.
In the absence of further discussion, the Chair called for a motion to adjourn. Chuck Brink made this motion seconded by Elizabeth Craig. The motion was approved by voice vote and the meeting adjourned at 11:30 a.m.
Matt Banks, Recording Secretary