Attending: Dan Barmmer, Gena Carter, Carolyn Elfland, David Fraley, James Holman, Todd Hux, Karol Gray, Denise Mabe, Brenda Malone, Jackie Overton, Carol Tresolini
Brenda Malone called the meeting to order at 10 a.m. Jackie Overton noted a call for the administration to issue an e-mail blast encouraging flexible working hours in response to the increase in gas prices. Malone recalled the pushback when Facilities Services reversed its policy of allowing four ten-hour work days. Todd Hux said that sixty hours were needed now to cover a forty-hour work week. Carolyn Elfland recalled a previous discussion in which the reasons behind the changeover were explained. She noted that Facilities Services had established a permanent second shift meaning that the extended hourly schedules were not needed. She also noted the increase demand for specialty positions. She recalled the 13% budget cuts that Facilities Services experienced 2-3 years ago. Karol Gray asked about summer flexibility. Elfland said that Grounds had embraced a 6-2 p.m. schedule in order to avoid the worst heat of the summer. Hux noted problems with having no refrigeration man on second shift, with preventative maintenance being done by an HVAC employee. Gray noted the need to hire more specialty employees. Hux commented that supervisors seemed unable to hire these employees. Elfland said that the issue is that the construction shop does not have enough work. She said that these positions have been posted internally only. She said that the pace of filling positions has not been optimal, but Facilities Services wanted to give construction candidates a chance to obtain these jobs. Some workers will take a chance on construction gaining more work in the future. Hux noted difficulties with the elimination of entry-level positions. Elfland said that with fewer positions, the department must hire those who know what needs to be done. Malone raised concerns that these employees did not meet qualifications. Elfland said that the positions were posted then opened to external candidates. She said that Facilities Services had held a meeting with construction employees informing them that when the work ends there will be no more work. These employees have the choice to stick with construction or move onto maintenance positions. Elfland said that appropriate hiring practices were followed. She said that Facilities Services treated these employees as a group, giving everyone one more chance to apply for the maintenance positions before they were posted externally. Malone reminded employees that flexible working hours are not granted for life but she said that the University would remind managers that this option continues.
It was noted that Printing Services was closing and it was reported that one delegate had heard that priority retirement for layoffs had gone. Elfland said that there used to be a rule that departments could only interview layoff candidates and only then could consider others. Gena Carter said that layoff candidates now have priority at or below where they once were. Malone said that Printing Services employees have met face to face with Human Resources’ layoff team. Elfland said that there had been special meetings scheduled for these employees. Barmmer asked the current policy governing layoff candidates. He noted reports of an outside company taking over Printing Services. Elfland said that one issue had not been resolved, that of some Printing Services employees being eligible to retire or discontinuing retirement being rehired by the contractor. She noted that retired employees cannot return to work for the State for a period of six months. She said that the Office of Human Resources and the University’s Legal Counsel were working to find an answer to this question.
Barmmer confirmed that the outside contractor taking over in place of Printing Services could rehire laid off employees. Elfland said that she hopes that the contractor will hire some of these employees. Barmmer noted questions of mismanagement in Printing Services that had been brought up the chain of command. Gray said that Finance and Administration has taken 25-30% cuts in recent years leading to multimillion dollar losses in Printing Services. Barmmer asked about the idea that the Printing Shop should be the preferred vendor for University departments. Elfland said that University policy is not to prop up internal units. She said that Printing Services’ revenue model was not sustainable. She noted that paper printing has declined 50% nationwide in recent years, with an even greater decline at the University due to the drive for sustainability. Bain Consulting had recommended that the University close down Printing Services two years ago, but the University kept the unit open to accommodate campus customers. However, when Printing Services could not meet certain monthly goals, the University had to make a decision. Barmmer confirmed that the closing was a result of market conditions, not mismanagement. Jackie Overton noted that departments do a great deal of their own printing now. It was noted that Printing Services had even enjoyed utility-free rental space in an effort to make the department profitable. NC State and Duke Universities have closed their Printing Services units. Gray said that she had heard comments that UNC Printing Services was mismanaged but in the end none of the numbers ended up in profit. She said that Printing Services was like Tar Heel Temps and Carolina Camps, victims of the economy.
James Holman raised the question of overtime for housekeepers during crucial times of the year such as Commencement week. He said that housekeepers have been asked to take days off during the week to offset work scheduled during the weekend. Elfland said that Facilities Services and Student Affairs need the ability to flex schedules during these busy periods. Malone said that these flexible schedules were driven by the work needs of the unit. She was surprised that so few employees in Housekeeping work flexible schedules. Holman said that maintenance employees typically work fifty hour work weeks without being asked to flex their schedules, gaining ten hours of overtime. Elfland said that it is cheaper for Housing and Facilities Services to schedule its workers in this way. She said that this year Housing had 500 vacancies in University Housing. David Fraley said that it seems that Facilities Services has eliminated full time positions to pay part time positions. Malone noted that everyone acts protective of what one likes. She said that the University must look at all approaches to save jobs, including flexible schedules. It is important that University operations are nimble. Elfland said that at other institutions housekeepers work on a nine-month residential model. Holman said that University housekeepers face tremendous pressures during Commencement preparation, for instance cleaning fifteen apartments in twenty-four hours. Elfland said that this was a reason that contractors specialize in turning over student apartments. She said that the needs of the University require nimbleness. Holman noted that in the two weeks prior to Commencement housekeepers are habitually taken out of their normal areas. Elfland said that the University must move its employees around to turn the 400 rooms required in 4-5 days. Malone said that most places have no choice as assignments change to meet the needs. Holman said that the University used to give time and a half for this work. Elfland said that the University does not have the funds for this now. Malone said that the University only has to guarantee salary for its workers, not the expectation of overtime. She said that the University must find a way to balance difficulties with child care and travel issues. She urged listeners to have an open mind about these questions. Denise Mabe said that she was hired at the University Library with the expectation that she flex her schedule as a matter of course. Fraley said that he wanted housekeepers to be treated fairly. Malone said that there is no intention to treat anyone unfairly. She challenged listeners to think about the big picture, figuring out how to get work done. She said that sometimes decisions will create discomfort for the greater good. Mabe said that in her position it was made clear that she would never see overtime. Malone said the University would try to figure out a way to address these needs in the summertime without granting overtime.
Barmmer noted that an employee, Katie Turner, has a husband who is a graduate student and wanted to obtain a fee waiver. He noted that full-time employees can get fees waived but graduate student TAs must obtain insurance before they can gain a waiver. Elfland said that TAs and RAs are different from permanent employees. Malone noted that the student fee waiver is administered by the Cashier’s Office, not Human Resources. She suggested speaking with the Cashier’s Office to get clarification. Malone did not know if the permanent job requirement for waivers applies to TAs or spouses of full-time employees. Barmmer said that the problem seems to be that the policy is inconsistently applied. Elfland said that the University System could face a large financial hole if the waiver were extended. Gray thought that there might be an ambiguity in the policy. Barmmer thought that the Human Resources website on the question could be clearer. There was some discussion on the distinction between tuition waivers and student fee waivers.
The group agreed to leave the question of exchanging personnel flexibility for collective bargaining rights for the next meeting.
In the absence of further discussion, the meeting adjourned by acclamation at 11 a.m.
Matt Banks, Recording Secretary