August 12, 2021 Employee Forum Vice Chancellor meeting minutes
Attending: Jessye Bongiovanni, Sharron Bouquin, Phil Edwards, Jaci Field, Brandi Flickinger, Stephanie Forman, Leah Hefner, Keith Hines, James Holman, Kira Jones, Nate Knuffman, Damian Locklear, Arlene Medder, Rebecca Menghini, Katie Musgrove, Joe Ormond, James Stamey, Matthew Teal, Tracey Wiley, Robin Willow-Johnson, Jacob Womack, Anna Wu
Katie Musgrove called the meeting to order at 10 a.m. She noted her request that these meetings now last an hour and a half, as discussions usually outlast the typical hour. She welcomed Nate Knuffman to speak about a new restriction regarding Facilities Services trades employees’ use of State vehicles during on-call duty. Knuffman began by emphasizing that skilled trade employees are greatly valued on campus. He said that the demonstration of their dedication these past 18 months had been incredible. He was very appreciative of their work.
Knuffman noted that Finance & Operations were affected by budget reductions as every other department was this past year. He said that the savings generated by this change is equivalent to approximately three to four full-time salaries. This change was enacted to avoid furloughs or layoffs in Finance & Operations. He estimated the overall savings resultant from the policy are estimated at $180,000.
In addition, the change brings UNC-Chapel Hill in line with all other UNC System institutions. The change also brings skilled trades in line with the callback policy for other Facilities units, specifically housekeeping and grounds. The University also evaluated the elimination of liability risk associated with the previous policy. Knuffman noted that other UNC System institutions’ facilities personnel, including housekeeping and grounds, must use their personal vehicles when called in.
Knuffman allowed that exceptions to this policy change are available for adverse weather callbacks. Musgrove asked how many skilled trades employees the University could see leave because of this policy change, adding that given the already high turnover situation, this policy change could exacerbate the problem. Knuffman hoped that would not be the case.
Musgrove hoped that this would not be the final policy, but rather that other cost savings measures would be considered and implemented. Knuffman said that Finance & Operations did attempt to balance cost-cutting measures across the division, by holding positions open and other measures. He noted that senior leadership has reduced from six to four employees, another area of significant savings.
Arlene Medder asked about employees who rely on public transport to get to work who are put on-call. Knuffman planned to look further into this question for on-call duty, which typically is around two to four weeks a year per employee. He hoped that this situation covers a small number of employees. Yet, these employees could potentially request permission to use an on-call vehicle for their duty. He needed to consult with other leaders to develop how this would work.
Matthew Teal noted concerns that managers were saying that their employees needed to move closer if concerned about the drive. He found this language and communication around the policy change very concerning. Musgrove added that supervisors should communicate this policy change respectfully while trying to figure out the best practice for their unit. Knuffman appreciated the feedback and agreed that supervisors should not communicate the policy change in such a way. Musgrove also conveyed the suggestion that salaried supervisors be called in as a first line before unsalaried workers, to which Knuffman and Anna Wu offered to investigate such a possibility.
Stephanie Forman raised a series of housekeeping concerns which had emerged from recent Personnel Issues committee meetings. Anna Wu noted that Facilities Services is going through the essential Human Resources action process to post 21 temporary housekeeping positions—including second- and third-shift positions—that should be approved. Facilities Services did recruitment for a third-shift crew leader that was posted and filled in January. For check in of August 2020, Facilities posted and filled 10 third-shift permanent positions. Temporary employee recruitment for Housekeeping has been ongoing for third- and first-shift positions since March 2021. Additionally, Wu said, the campus posted fourteen temporary positions covering the need for enhanced cleaning that occurred in the spring.
Forman noted a question regarding whether an employee must wait until there are a certain number of vacancies before positions are posted, as Housekeeping averages a total of 10% of vacancies on a continuous basis. Wu said that this figure is low for the industry as industry turnover reaches as high as 300%. She said that under normal circumstances the University is continually posting for Housekeeping positions. Due to the freeze in hiring in 2021, it was posited that Housekeeping has returned to a continuous high hiring process.
Wu said that Facilities attempts to adhere to the University’s recruiting initiative of hiring a candidate within 45 days. For the last round of non-managerial positions hired around July 20, 2021, Facilities hired thirteen non-managerial first-shift Housekeeping employees in 33 days. Wu added that Housekeeping has implemented a weekly job fair because of the nationwide difficulty in attracting qualified candidates.
Rebecca Menghini noted that temporary recruitment efforts must be approved by the Chancellor, her, and a few others on a weekly basis under the temporary suspension. These positions are considered and decisions rendered within the following week as the positions are then posted. She said that the senior administrative group has not declined any Housekeeping positions thus far.
Katie Musgrove ventured that the pain point in this process could be the training period for newly recruited housekeeping employees. Wu responded that the lack of quality applicants is the primary pain point. She said that the training period for newly hired housekeeping employees is one week.
James Holman said that to his understanding, no second- or third-shift positions are being posted. He knew people are waiting to apply but are not seeing jobs available. He reported that one unit has not had a crew leader position posted for over two years. He relayed reports of one employee cleaning two buildings. Holman granted that housing is of immediate concern but said that the academic area also needs consideration. He said that all these reports were evidence of frustration among campus staff. Anna Wu said that she would ask for an update on vacancy reports and their status. She wanted all interested parties to apply for positions. Holman added that he wanted management to communicate better with staff as to current happenings.
Wu added that it would be good to know an exact number of vacancies across all three shifts. Keith Hines asked that, given that the University knew this need for additional applicants was evident in June, why did the August requests for temporary housekeepers not occur in June or July. Wu noted that positions are hired on a staggered cycle, to avoid a large loss of employees all at once.
Hines asked how long temporary positions will work three to four years in eleven-month increments. He thought that this occurrence indicates a full-time staffing need. Wu said that Housekeeping plans to fill temporary vacancies with the intent of making these permanent in the next budget year. She noted that temporary positions are used in many ways, usually deployed at the entry level. However, Housekeeping searches for permanent replacements for vacancies, crew leaders, and zone managers.
Musgrove suggested Holman share his list of vacancies and their locations with Wu to adjust for discrepancies. Holman said that he would do that. He added hearing about a practice of using second- and third-shift housekeepers to clean and sanitize campus, and that this is the reason these vacancies are not posted as vacant. Wu said that she would need to research this point.
Robin Willow-Johnson advised Holman that potential candidates can sign up for instant notifications of job postings. Holman recalled the case of an employee who wanted to return from outside the University to a housekeeping position but could not find a relevant posting.
Katie Musgrove asked to postpone question #3 until Kira Jones became available later in the meeting. Jacob Womack chose to table his question #4 concerning requirements for vaccine attestation and training about possible consequences of failure to vaccinate.
Matthew Teal asked if there were any updates on the so-called 20% rule. He noted that the Personnel Issues committee is working on a couple of resolutions related to this question. He asked if there were any further news. Rebecca Menghini said that this subject has been discussed for months. She noted that the UNC System Office is very supportive of eliminating this rule, which seems to interfere with campuses’ ability to retain their best employees through internal promotion. There is a move to have previous salary eliminated from consideration when making offers to internal and external candidates, but this step would likely occur after the State has agreed on a budget.
Menghini reiterated that changes to this policy require Board of Governors approval. She recalled advocating for elimination of this policy in many different meetings and communications with UNC System Office officials. She noted that EEOC complaints have not achieved much given that the policy applies equally to everyone.
Teal asked if, following passage of the State budget, the policy would go away instantly or would a multi-year transition period occur. Menghini anticipated that the policy change would occur at a September or October Board of Governors meeting, given the general urgency to rescind this rule. She said that Human Resources wants this rule to go away as badly as employees do. However, the rule can only be rescinded via the Board of Governors through the UNC System Office’s help.
Katie Musgrove asked if Menghini anticipated that the State budget would receive final approval in August. Menghini noted expectations that the State will have a final budget in September. Phil Edwards asked how the University would remedy the impact of this policy upon the trajectory of individuals’ careers who are still on campus, and those who left UNC because of this policy. Menghini did not anticipate that the policy change will be retroactive. She thought that the change will leave it to individual campuses to figure out how to adjust moving forward. She noted the very limited budget to reward people now available. However, she had hopes of some legislative increase or AARP to provide these funds. She could not comment further without seeing the language of the eventual remedy to the policy.
Matthew Teal asked if Menghini could commit to a campus-wide stance on the policy’s remedy. Menghini would not commit to a campus-wide remedy, noting instead specific areas of challenge that units can identify and move forward. She could not commit resources in another unit on behalf of the unit, but she could continue to work on identifying areas of compression and other issues.
James Holman followed up by noting the relatively small additional salary for crew leaders in Housekeeping as opposed to entry level employees. Menghini said that the University is working through ideas to fix the compression issue as a priority. Holman reported that housekeeping leaders are paid at an advanced salary at NC State, whereas UNC-Chapel Hill is not providing this differential. He said that the University has been stuck in this pattern for years.
Katie Musgrove asked if Menghini could speak further on percentages related to hiring and the eventual replacement of the Statewide career banding system. Damian Locklear anticipated that the timeline for transition would be 18 to 24 months, requiring a lot of front-end work to adapt from the previous State-wide system. Currently there is no information to communicate or clarify possible pay ranges. As soon as these become available, OHR will develop transition groups and discuss positions and classifications.
Leah Hefner asked about the University’s policy for alternative religious holidays for employees of different religious faiths. She wondered how the substitution policy of day for day would function as departments now are encouraged to close for the winter week. She also asked if only remote employees can take advantage of this exchange. Brandy Flickinger said that managers and supervisors may approve employee requests to exchange a paid holiday for either the Spring Holiday (Good Friday) or one of the winter holidays (Christmas) for another recognized religious holiday, provided that meaningful work can be accomplished on the University’s regularly scheduled holiday. These holidays must both occur in the same calendar year.
Flickinger noted campus guidance to supervisors to be as flexible as possible with individuals and their employment needs. The main rule that the employee must engage in meaningful work provides an opportunity to participate in community service leave outside the office if given permission.
Kira Jones presented a suggestion that had been developed in her area to create non-verbal signals (differently-colored wristbands) about personal space boundaries related to the pandemic. She urged adoption of an idea like this one for general use at the University. Nate Knuffman was not aware of any campus-wide effort, but he said that the idea has come up before. He had submitted a similar suggestion to University Communications and the Public Health Communications group involving downloadable signage. He did not have any further information about possible activities in this area.
James Stamey raised a question regarding the nepotism policy, and the possibility that an employee did not report such a situation on their employment application. He asked the next step to deal with this situation. Rebecca Menghini said that this employee would simply fill out an employment related persons form for submission to Human Resources.
Menghini noted that the nepotism policy applies to cases only whereby someone may have direct influence over an employee’s role. For example, if Menghini were supervised by her wife, that would present a problem without submission of the form. Employees usually fill out the form once the issue is raised. Human Resources officials will examine the relationship and whether the employment relationship can proceed, or what efforts need to be enacted to ensure ethical conduct. However, if Menghini’s wife works with the UNC History department, the policy would not apply in this case, as Menghini works in a different department. It was clarified that these situations may still allow the employment relationship to occur with limitations, given the working relationship. Human Resources works to ensure checks are in place and follow-up occurs to put these checks in play.
Arlene Medder asked about the prospect for elder care leave given the many demands upon employees in this situation. She understood that this question lies beyond the University’s decision-making authority but wanted to raise the subject. Robin Willow-Johnson said that the Family & Medical Leave Act provides up to twelve work-week periods of protected leave in a twelve-month period to care for a relation with a serious health condition. This leave is not paid leave, and would not apply to taking time to sell one’s mother’s house, for example. The leave covers care for a family member unable to care for themselves in their basic medical, hygienic, nutritional needs. The leave also covers transportation to doctor’s appointments, and even provision of psychological comfort and reassurance.
Family & Medical leave is not paid leave itself but can be combined with other employee leave. If an employee cannot use their own leave, the employee should evaluate their eligibility for voluntary shared leave. Medder asked if there has been any advocacy for elder care leave like that for parental leave. Menghini had heard of System level discussions, but the challenge remains in convincing the State Legislature and OSHR of this necessity. She offered to check on the status of this concern.
Jacob Womack asked if there would be a mechanism whereby the University would reprimand someone who does not abide by the University’s community standards, most notably its mask policy. Menghini said that the University is still working through these details. She said that if an employee is required to test, they will use the HallPass application as do the students. The Office of Human Resources will receive reports of those who fail to test and is working through with State officials to determine what discipline would occur in these cases. Menghini did not envision removing an employee from their job for missing one test, but she said that the intent is to demonstrate the seriousness of the policy.
Menghini said that the University will not yet require vaccines as necessary for employment. However, the University can set out a series of options moving forward as a condition of employment. Attendees then discussed the testing schedule available to employees during their working schedule. Menghini said that employees who think they have been exposed should work with their local healthcare provider to get testing. These employees should not go through the general asymptomatic testing regime at UNC. Menghini asked for help from the Forum to encourage vaccination and attestation of vaccination status among employees, as staff attestation numbers are the lowest among faculty, staff, and students.
These numbers are important to help understand what the requirements of the Carolina testing program will be for staff employees along with faculty and students. She noted that 91% of Carolina faculty have now attested to being vaccinated. She hoped that staff will begin to report their vaccination status in better numbers soon.
An attendee asked about outreach efforts to subsets of campus staff. Menghini said that these efforts have occurred but cautioned that word-of-mouth is a necessary component of this outreach. She granted the complexities of this request when there are questions as to discussing vaccination status with a fellow employee. People are cautious about even broaching the subject.
James Holman advocated that one of the testing sites open at six a.m. to accommodate third-shift employees completing their shifts. Menghini offered to communicate this request but said that she does not have responsibility for testing sites and their staffing.
Katie Musgrove thanked Menghini and the other Vice Chancellor representatives for their updates on these many topics. The meeting adjourned by unanimous consent at 1:14 p.m.
Matt Banks, Recording Secretary