Erik Seastedt, UA HR office, answers staff questions on draft furlough policy

Erik Seastedt responds below to UAA staff questions on the proposed draft furlough policy UA regents are scheduled to discuss at their Sept. 18 meeting. Erik’s answers are in italics. Questions are grouped by topic.

GENERAL QUESTIONS:

  • What constitutes a unit at the university?

“Units” include major administrative units and academic units, as well as smaller units such as departments.

  • How can I as an employee give feedback on a policy that could be implemented in January of 2015, when there is no policy?

Draft policy language was distributed to all employees on June 2nd, 2014. We have been collecting feedback and will continue to do so as work on the policy and regulations continues. If you have not been able to comment to date, please contact your local governance office.

  • What kind of need constitutes putting someone on furlough? A budgetary shortfall; when projected expenses exceed anticipated revenue.
  • Will the furlough be used as a way to reorganize some employees out of the system?  No, furloughs are temporary ways to cut our costs to pay our bills. Reorganizations are occurring all the time and would be an ongoing exercise regardless of furlough implementation.
  • Is there a step to cut the fat before resorting to furlough?

There are many steps the system has been taking and will continue to take before resorting to the more drastic decision to implement furloughs. Lists are available from SW and each MAU as to current efforts.

  • Who decides how long the furlough will be?

If a furlough is implemented it would be in consultation with finance and the president for as long as necessary to cover the budget shortfall.

  • If any unit of the university is short, can the university implement furloughs or reductions of pay to the entire university system?   The policy is broad enough that this would be possible.

 

WHO IS AFFECTED?

  • Staff is the only group without a union. Are we the only group this proposed furlough policy will affect?

Students, non-citizen workers, and 100%-outside-funded employees would likely not be affected by a furlough. All other employees, union and non-union would be affected…many with furloughs, some with layoffs in lieu of furlough.

  • Who is a UAA employee? A professor, an adjunct, an administrative assistant, a student on work/study, a maintenance craftsman, full time, part time, anyone who is represented by the Classified Council? Please explain.

Anyone on the UAA employee payroll is a UAA employee.

  • Would only hourly staff be subject to furlough, or would salaried employees also be affected?

Both could be affected. If non-exempt (hourly) staff in a unit are furloughed, exempt staff would also be furloughed.

  • If any unit is required to accept furloughs, will the head of the unit also be required to accept a furlough?

Yes.

  • Will the president, chancellors, vice chancellors etc. all be taking a month or two pay cut?

Furlough/pay cut, yes. It is not anticipated that any employee would be furloughed for a month or two.

  • Who determines who is necessary and who isn’t?

Chancellors have always determined ‘essential’ personnel typically defined as those employees necessary for the health and safety of a campus.

  • Will college and university leadership expect prospective, temporary reductions in pay at the same rate as those employees making $30,000 a year?

Reductions for leadership would be at least equal to lower-paid employees. Some lower-paid employees may be exempt from furlough.

  • Is there a distinction between part time and full time employees with respect to furlough?

Part-time employees would likely be furloughed on a pro-rata basis.

  • What exceptions would be in place for staff classified as essential to the safety and operation of the university?

These individuals would not be furloughed.

 

NOTICE

  • What kind of advanced written notice is required: 30 days, 60 days, 90 days, six months?

Regulation would address this but it has not yet been determined. We would strive however to give as much advance notice as is practical.

 

TEMPORARY REDUCTION IN PAY

  • Reduction in pay: Will these be meted out at a flat rate to any staff members, or will they be on a graduated scale? As an example, under a temporary reduction in pay scenario, will staff making under $30,000 a year have the same pay cut as someone making $75,000 a year?

Percentages may be the same or higher for individuals making more than X.xx dollars per year. This has not been determined but would likely reflect the severity of the financial situation for the system. Some lower-paid employees may be exempt from furlough as well.

  • Are temporary reductions in pay open-ended, or will we be guaranteed a time limit to the reductions and or furloughs?

This has not been determined and would be based on the nature of the financial need of the unit or system. Time limits would, however, be put in place in advance whenever possible.

  • Under temporary reductions in pay, will we be expected and required to do the same jobs and the same hours we were hired for, but paid less than we agreed to when hired?

Same jobs, yes, but a reduction in pay would result in a reduction of effort required. Hours of work would be affected by the nature of how a furlough is structured.

 

REGULATIONS/POLICIES

  • What are the regulations and plans approved by the president? Is the president the final responsible party in regard to shaping this policy?

After the Board of Regents approves a policy, the president develops and implements regulation to carry out the policy. We continue to ask for employee feedback so we can appropriately shape the regulations.

  • Which BOR P&R’s are alluded to here:
    Furloughs shall be implemented in accordance to regulations and plans….

This refers to the regulations that will be developed through the president’s office to codify and implement the policy. Feedback from members of the UA community has been and will continue to be asked for so that the shaping of regulations and implementation of the policy are fair and consistent.

 

EFFECT ON BENEFITS

  • Will employees who are furloughed be eligible for unemployment benefits?

Likely not. Most options for furlough design would not reach the eligibility level for unemployment benefits.

  • How are health and other benefits affected during a furlough? There would be no effect on health insurance and leave accrual benefits. Retirement contributions would be affected and depending on the length of the furlough, retirement service credit could be affected.

 

HOW WILL IT WORK?

  • What is the maximum number of furlough days that can be implemented?

That would be determined by financial need. Limits would be put in place in advance.

  • Could units or employees choose to implement voluntary Leave Without Pay and have a voice as to when?

Yes.

  • Could there be a discussion with staff before jumping on the furlough train? I have spoken with many people and most of them have said they would be willing to work at 90 percent as long as all benefits remain.

Retirement benefits would be affected by a work reduction as well as furlough due to state law and plan provisions. Other benefits such as health insurance and leave accruals could remain at their current status. Discussions are ongoing and will continue throughout our financially troubling times. The system welcomes discussion from faculty and staff including any options to help us save money.

  • Would the furlough policy be structured at all? Newest hires affected first, for example?

As mentioned, furloughs would be by unit or for the system.

  • Who will decide whom, how many and from what departments will be affected by the proposed furlough policy?

That would be conversations that occur at the unit and university level with final recommendations coming from each chancellor’s office.

  • Will the number of dependents an employee claims be a consideration in their potential furlough?

That has not been determined but some lower-paid employees may be excluded.

  • Can Leave Without Pay taken for other reasons be applied to a furlough?

If you are asking if unrelated-to-furlough LWOP can be applied to furlough days the answer is no. If however employees are required to take days of Leave Without Pay as furlough days, they could use those days for any purpose.

  • Are there more dramatic and lasting solutions on the table for future years? Early retirement, or some other program to create attrition and bring salaries in line with future budget expectations?

All of the above have been and continue to be considered. All employees are strongly encouraged to look for efficiencies in the operation of their units to reduce costs.

  • What other measures have been explored beyond furloughing to address the budget shortfalls in the system?

Each MAU and Statewide has a long list of issues they have addressed to date to improve our financial situation. Those lists are available upon request.

  • Would a cap be placed on the number of days a year employees could be furloughed?

Likely yes, but this has not been determined but would depend on the financial need of the institution.

  • What measures would be put into place to ensure employees were not required to work on a day they were furloughed?

Non-exempt (hourly) employees must submit accurate time records for all hours worked. Any employee scheduled for a furlough day and required to work would be instructed to remind their supervisor it is a furlough day or to contact their local HR office.

  • Would it be possible for employees on contracts less than 12 months to request that their pay be divided out over 12 months? Non-exempt (hourly) employees must be paid for the hours that they work during each pay period. Exempt employees who are furloughed or voluntarily reduce their contract would have their salaries reduced over a 12-month period. We actually feel this is the ONLY way we should pay employees who voluntarily move to less than 12-month contracts.
  • If a position comes open in our department in the next few months, will department leadership have the option to furlough that position leaving it unfilled for a period of time instead of furloughing everyone else in the department?

That has always been an option for departments but if targeted for furlough, a department’s finances would already have taken vacant positions into account.

 

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Furlough policy feedback deadline and an opportunity to provide input to regulation development

UA is moving forward to seek approval of a furlough policy by the Board of Regents in September. The president and Chief HR Officer asked Staff Alliance for names of volunteers who would like to work with the CHRO and General Counsel to identify help shape the regulations attached to the policy.

I want to thank everyone who has already taken the time to provide feedback through our blog (http://uastaffalliance.wordpress.com/2014/06/03/feedback-requested-on-draft-furlough-policy/) or through e-mail. I want to extend the invitation to participate in the process further by volunteering for this committee or providing additional input on the language of the proposed policy.

Staff Alliance will be meeting on Thursday morning, Aug. 28,  to approve our final response to the policy proposal prior to the September Regents meeting. While most details will be developed in regulations, the overall power and control is in policy. Please provide any further feedback on the proposed policy language by August 27.

I understand that the beginning of the school year is a busy time, but we would like the committee to meet to discuss potential regulations prior to the September BOR meeting, so that an introduction of what may or may not be included in the regulations can be part of the presentation of the policy.

If you are interested please let me know at mmusick@alaska.edu or call 450-8103. If you simply have ideas or suggestions please send them to me, post them to the blog, or contact your local governance representative and we will bring your ideas and concerns to the table.

Thank You,
Monique Musick
Staff Alliance Chair

 

PROPOSED POLICY LANGUAGE:

P04.07.115  Employee Furlough

  1.  Effective January 1, 2015, to address budgetary shortfalls in any unit of the university employees may be subject to furlough via temporary unpaid leaves of absence or prospective, temporary reductions in pay.
  2.  Furloughs shall be implemented in accordance with regulations and plans approved by the president pursuant to this policy, provided however that employees shall receive written notice of furlough as provided by regulation.
  3.  Furlough plans may be implemented notwithstanding any other regents’ policy, university regulation or university or campus practice or procedure and are subject to review only as may be provided in regulations adopted pursuant to this policy.



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2014-2015 Staff Alliance annual meeting, chair election results, goals and outreach

Greetings staff and university community members,

The new members of the 2014-2015 Staff Alliance governance group completed a full-day of business yesterday, July 31, during their annual retreat.

I, Monique Musick, have been elected as Staff Alliance Chair for this year. I come from Statewide where I am currently the Vice President of the Statewide Administration Assembly. The newly elected Staff Alliance Vice Chair is Kathleen McCoy, who is UAA’s APT Council President.

I am looking forward to working with all the new members of Staff Alliance:

• Chris Beks, President UAF Staff Council
• Faye Gallant, Vice President UAF Staff Council
• Tom Langdon, Representative SAA
• Dayna Mackey, Vice President UAS Staff Council
• Kathleen McCoy, President UAA APT Council
• Monique Musick, Vice President SAA
• Gwenna Richardson, President UAS Staff Council
• Liz Winfree, President UAA Classified Council

This is an important and exciting time to be involved in governance. I’d like to encourage all of you to take a moment to review the System Governance Website: http://www.alaska.edu/governance/. This is the best way to keep up to date on governance meetings, actions, motions, contact information and more.

As a result of yesterday’s discussion, we will be adding forms to the Governance site so constituents can send their comments or feedback directly to their local representatives. You are strongly encouraged to review upcoming meeting agendas and provide your comments and input on matters of interest.

Staff Alliance identified three major goals for the 2014-2015 year.

1.) Increased Engagement with the Board of Regents
The Staff Alliance Chair makes regular reports to, and testifies before, the Board of Regents during their regular meetings. While staff often show up in great numbers in reaction to specific topics of interest, there is little regular testimony to the board highlighting the great work that staff do on a regular basis. We want to see more testimony about how staff across the system are implementing positive change, helping achieve cost-containment goals and improving the University of Alaska. A letter of introduction will be sent to the Regents outlining this goal and our intention for an even greater working relationship with the university’s governing body.

2.) Recognition of staff achievement
Staff Spotlights will be integrated into Chair reports and featured during public testimony at Regent meetings. We will be gathering information on staff achievements through local governance groups. Staff council presidents all agreed to add an agenda item to each meeting to collect information on staff achievements and highlights to add to Staff Alliance’s regular reports. UA staff do amazing things every day and we seek greater recognition for the efforts of so many.

3.) Constituent Communication
Improved communication is always a need and always a goal. Staff Alliance members are committed to providing their constituents with timely and relevant information on matters affecting staff and the university community. In addition we want to increase the collection of feedback and staff testimonials. We will use this blog on a more frequent basis and add functionality to the Governance Website for gathering staff feedback. We will be doing a few staff surveys in order to gain insight and make informed decisions on matters affecting staff.

We went straight to work reviewing proposals on FY16 compensation, and a review of geographic differential pay across the system, from the Compensation Working Group. We hope to have our proposal for the FY16 staff compensation to university leadership before their big budget meeting on Aug. 7.

President Gamble and Vice President Dana Thomas addressed the group to discuss shared governance and the important role we play in sharing the work of the university. We discussed the newly formed Summit Team, Shaping Alaska’s Future, the university budget and the reputation of the University of Alaska.

During the business meeting that followed we elected officers: Musick, chair; McCoy, vice chair; Dayna Mackey, secretary (pending change to the Staff Alliance Constitution) and Faye Gallant, treasurer (pending).

In other business we drafted a motion with suggested wording changes to the proposed furlough policy; appointed new representatives to Alliance and administrative committees and councils; did a first read of proposed revisions to the Staff Alliance Constitution (including adding two new officers: secretary and treasurer); and reviewed UAF resolutions on Sick Leave and Bereavement leave share eligibility requirements.

Further information on all these actions will be shared in forthcoming posts. Thank you for supporting shared governance by staying involved, informed and providing much needed feedback. We look forward to a very productive year.

Best Regards,
Monique Musick
Staff Alliance Chair

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Feedback Requested on Draft Furlough Policy

On Monday, June 2, a memo regarding a draft furlough policy was sent out by Erik Seastedt, CHRO. The memo is copied below.

The UA Staff Alliance requests your feedback so that we can communicate your concerns to the UA administration and to the June Board of Regents meeting (this Thursday and Friday). Please leave a comment below.

The Regents are meeting June 5 & 6 in Anchorage in the Lee Gorsuch Commons. Public testimony will be heard at approximately 9:00 AM each day. Public testimony can only be given in-person and comments are limited to 3 minutes per individual or as determined by the chair. There will be a sign-up sheet in advance. Written comments can be submitted to sybor@alaska.edu and will be distributed to the Regents and the President following the meeting.

* * *

To: University of Alaska Staff Employees
From: R. Erik Seastedt, Chief Human Resources Officer

Date: June 2, 2014

Re: Draft Furlough Policy

A draft furlough policy has been developed to provide a possible
alternative to layoffs in the event of temporary and unanticipated
budgetary shortfalls.

This draft policy will be discussed with the UA Board of Regents at their
June 5-6 meeting in Anchorage. A formal motion on this policy may be
considered by the Board at their September meeting in Juneau. If the motion
passes, the policy as currently drafted would take effect January 1, 2015.

Please give staff governance your input on the draft policy so they can
represent your perspectives when addressing this issue with the UA Board of
Regents.

The draft policy anticipates that implementation details would be addressed
in regulations adopted by the president. In accordance with Regents’
Policy, governance groups and the chancellors would have an opportunity to
comment on draft regulations. Implementation details will include ensuring
essential services are not affected; notice to employees; exceptions for
externally funded or other classes of employees for whom furlough is
inappropriate; effects on benefits, retirement, holidays; expedited dispute
resolution, etc.

Please be advised that this draft policy does not unilaterally change the
terms and conditions of employment in any UA Collective Bargaining
Agreements.

The draft furlough policy reads as follows:

*P04.07.115 Employee Furlough*

*A. Effective January 1, 2015, to address budgetary shortfalls in any unit
of the university, employees may be subject to furlough via temporary
unpaid leaves of absence or prospective, temporary reductions in pay. *

*B. Furloughs shall be implemented in accordance with regulations and
plans approved by the president pursuant to this policy, provided however
that employees shall receive written notice of furlough as provided by
regulation and further provided that employees may not work or use paid
leave during a period of leave without pay due to furlough.*

*C. Furlough plans may be implemented notwithstanding any other regents’
policy, university regulation or university or campus practice or procedure
and are subject to review only as may be provided in regulations adopted
pursuant to this policy.*

If you have questions, please contact me at 907-450-8222 or
eseastedt@alaska.edu.

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Feedback Requested on Discontinuation of Mailed Paychecks and Auto-Deposit Advisories

The individual mailing of employee paychecks and auto-deposit advice was discontinued beginning with the April 4 paydate. According to an announcement printed in the January Statewide Voice (reprinted below) this is a cost-containment effort. Staff who would no longer be receiving paper checks were also sent multiple e-mails to inform them of the change. The HR Offices at all campuses have been involved in this move as well. Communication and outreach may have varied by location.

This cost-containment move did not receive the usual vetting through governance and had only minimal public notice. As your elected staff representatives, we want to provide you with an opportunity to provide your feedback on this transition, report any problems with the process, share suggestions for improvements, ask questions and otherwise report back on how this change has affected you. If you would rather not use this blog to provide feedback, please contact your local governance representative or Human Resources office.

Thank you,
Staff Alliance

http://www.alaska.edu/voice/2014/jan-2014/announcements/:

Paychecks No Longer Mailed Beginning April 4
As part of ongoing efforts to reduce costs, individual mailing of employee paychecks will be discontinued beginning with the April 4, 2014 paydate, Human Resources has announced.
UA currently spends more than $26,000 per year in postage to mail employee paychecks to individual addresses. Once implemented, campuses will receive all checks for their physical location in a single shipment. The campus will then distribute the paper checks to employees.

In addition, paper copies of direct deposit advisories also will no longer be generated.

To further help in the systemwide cost containment effort, UA’s Human Resources strongly encourages direct deposit and the elimination of paper paychecks whenever possible. Conservative estimates place the cost of generating a manual paper check at approximately $6 per employee, per pay period. More liberal interpretations that add in labor costs put this estimate as high as $50 per check, per pay period. Electronic payments are estimated to cost only 30 cents by comparison.

There are multiple additional benefits to using direct deposit:

  •  It is safe, secure and convenient.
  • Direct deposits can be divided across up to six different banks per pay check.
  • Money is deposited in your bank (or banks) on payday, whereas manual check delivery may be hampered or delayed due to weather, avalanche or other circumstances.
  • Direct deposit saves money for the system and helps EVERYONE.

If you have any questions about the process of setting up direct deposit, please contact Human Resources.

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Vice Chair Testimony to the BOR April 3, 2014

Greetings!
I wanted to share a transcript of my testimony to the Board of Regents on April 3. Many great things happened at the meeting including the approval of the Shaping Alaska’s Future Effect Statements and deadlines for a common calendar and GER’s across all campuses.

For more information about the meeting read the release here: http://www.alaska.edu/opa/enews/2014/404/

If you have an issue you would like to bring to Staff Governance please contact us.
Thanks,
Monique Musick
Staff Alliance Vice Chair

***********
Good morning madame chair, Regents, President Gamble thank you for this opportunity to speak today. I am Monique Musick Vice Chair of Staff Alliance. Chair Carey Brown was unable to come today and I am thrilled to be here instead.

Staff Alliance held a two day retreat in March up in Fairbanks. Twice a year we meet in person and have the time to more thoroughly discuss important issues than our regular monthly business meetings allow.

During the retreat we passed a resolution in support of the university’s position against SB 176. The sensible restrictions currently within policy and regulation strikes a balance between our right to bear arms, and the university’s mission. Staff governance groups have shared the briefing sheet, legal analysis and other resources with staff throughout the system and are encouraging them to write to their legislators with their stance on this issue.

There is a lot happening in Juneau that has our attention. Budget reductions, cost savings measures, and the growing need to accomplish more with less fall heavily on staff. We will be watching closely as this session nears closure to see what happens to our operating and capital budgets and will be advocating as we can for funding the Board’s priorities. Governance representatives will continue to work with administration at all levels to help address the funding shortages and adjust accordingly. For the opportunity to be involved in shared governance I would like to express our sincere gratitude.

Vice President Dana Thomas was able to join us during the retreat to provide an update on Shaping Alaska’s Future. We’ve offered our input throughout the process and are excited to see the Effect Statements before you today. This incredible transformational effort is exciting to be involved in and will be (and already is) so beneficial for the university and the state.

In addition Associate General Counsel Mike O’Brien came to a retreat session to discuss the workplace bullying training effort. Staff Alliance passed a resolution encouraging the other MAUs to also offer this training during our fall retreat and were interested in knowing how that was progressing. The feedback from the sessions held at Statewide has been very positive, and not surprisingly correlates to quite a few bullying claims coming to HR. The impact on HR is part of what is being considered now by the other campuses. I attended a session myself and found the clear definitions, examples and discussion very insightful. I’d like to thank Anne Sakumoto, Mike O’Brien, Rhonda Ohms and everyone who has worked to put this training together and help address this issue.

The Confidential Hotline was also discussed during the retreat in the context of both workplace bullying and the expanded fraud waste and abuse policy. As a member of the implementation team I can say I am excited to see this resource coming online soon and support the new policy.

The Compensation working group has reconvened and is working with HR to revise our proposals regarding leave, flex time, geographic differential, bonuses and other matters of high interest to staff as well as beginning to look at FY16 compensation, especially in light of anticipated budget restrictions.

We discussed some bylaw changes that will be introduced at our next meeting to add Secretary and Treasurer positions. Taking more responsibility for our own records and budget will help take some pressure off the system governance office.

Lastly we discussed the new wellness vendor Healthyroads and the rebate incentive for using the wellness program. We discussed in general the new plan rates, and are happy to note that the wellness incentive will have a real impact for everyone on the UA Choice plan that chooses to participate.

Nominations have been received for the 2014 Staff Make Students Count Award and we look forward to presenting the honored staff members at a future meeting.
****************

Note that in a follow-up question it was clarified that staff were asked to use their own time and resources for contacting their legislators, and that it was made clear in communications that staff on both sides of the issue (CSSB 176) are encourage to share their stance.

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SA Chair Report, BOR Meeting 2/20/14

The following information was delivered as testimony to the Board of Regents during the February 20, 2014 session:

1. The Staff Makes Students Count Award deadline is Friday, February 21. Each university and statewide governance offices along with their staff councils are promoting the information and coordinating the set-up of nomination review committees for this prestigious award.

2. Staff Alliance met on February 11 and was joined by Anne Sakumoto, Director, Faculty and Staff Training and Development. Anne presented an update on SkillSoft and its resources. Staff Alliance has long been an advocate for E-Learning as an opportunity for certification attainment, skill building, and professional development. The SkillSoft contract is good through January 2015.

3. Shaping Alaska’s Future: Staff Alliance has been in regular contact with Dr. Dana Thomas providing feedback from Staff Governance throughout the draft process. The latest draft required input from Staff Alliance as the collective voice of our local staff governance groups. We would like to express appreciation to Dr. Thomas and President Gamble for inclusion in this process.

4. Staff Alliance is preparing for its annual retreat to be held March 11 and 12 in Fairbanks, AK. This is an opportunity for our group to provide closure to outstanding topics of interest and concern and to brainstorm our strategic plan for the upcoming year.

5. Staff Alliance is pleased that the newly developed Summit Team will allow increased input from Staff Alliance on matters that impact our collective universities. It is a welcomed gesture and we would like to express our appreciation. Local governance groups are embarking on a campaign to provide updated literature and visual aids to attract staff to the governance process.

– Carey D. Brown, Staff Alliance Chair

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