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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Comprehensive Benefit Information from the JHCC Vendor Summit

On November 21 and 22, staff representatives on the Joint Health Care Committee, Monique Musick and Gwenna Richardson, along with alternate Tamah Hayes, joined union representative committee members and UA administration in a two-day health vendor summit. The meetings with UA’s health plan vendors and agents explored ways that vendors can better collaborate and integrate services to meet the health and wellness needs of UA’s plan members.

The first day was spent entirely with Premera representatives. Premera is now offering a much broader range of coverage under the new plan design including pharmacy coverage, integrated health management, personal health support, medical travel program, 24-hour nurseline, website portal and a mobile application.

The following benefits will be discussed in order. Quick links have been provided to help navigate to specific areas of interest.

TOP MENU

Premera

Vendor Summit

Premera Pharmacy [Back to top]

The change from Caremark to Premera for the pharmacy benefit, which went into effect July 2013, is one of the most noticeable changes for plan members. Pharmacy is the most used benefit with an 80% utilization rate. Premera has partnered with ExpressScripts, the nation’s largest pharmacy benefit manager.

David Testerman, a pharmacist with Premera, presented information on the benefit design, utilization reports, discount services, network coverage and specialty pharmacy coverage. The pharmacy and therapeutics committee at Premera meets quarterly to review new drugs, make value assessments to determine preferred drugs, research new generics and establish which drugs require prior-authorization.

Prior authorizations accepted under Caremark were carried over into the new plan, but because Premera has different standards and classifications, some members may be, or have been, asked to get prior-authorization for their prescription now when they didn’t in the past. Some drugs may have moved into a different co-pay tier level. Members should be aware that changes in drug classification is an unavoidable part of changing pharmacy benefit management.

The coordination of pharmacy and medical coverage can lead to reduced costs and optimize member health. Premera employs a medical review process—RationalMed— to make sure that members are receiving safe and proper medical care. Premera can potentially stop fulfillment of a prescription at the point of sale if it poses a risk based on other pharmacy or medical claims, such as an unsafe combination of drugs or a drug that is potentially harmful because of existing medical conditions. They also monitor controlled substance utilization and provide outreach and intervention if a member is over-using controlled substances, or using multiple doctors and pharmacists to fulfill pharmacy claims. In some cases they may limit a member to a single prescriber to deter possible abuse.

Specialty pharmacy utilization is growing at 18% per year. These are very expensive medications used to treat highly complex medical conditions such as multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and some cancers. Utilizers make up less than 1% of the population, but account for more than 20% of total pharmacy costs. Estimates project that by 2018 more than 50% of total pharmacy cost will be spent on specialty pharmacy claims. Prescriptions are carefully monitored to make sure that medications are being properly utilized. The pharmacists at Premera automatically review the ingredients in any compound medication costing more than $200 to ensure that all ingredients are safe and medically necessary. They provide members with these conditions clinical counseling services and telephonic support from trained professionals at therapeutic centers with expert knowledge of the medical conditions and treatments.

Express Scripts has one of the nation’s largest networks, which provides significant discount and rebate opportunities and efficient claims processing. The most significant savings come through the mail-order service, especially on name brand drugs. Mail order service takes into account Alaska’s climate. It was requested that the 90-day supply available through mail order be an option on location too for generic medications. The reason this request was made is that many plan members want to support their local pharmacy and still have the cost-savings associated with filling three months of a prescription at once. If enacted this would only be available for generic medications; the discounts for name brands via mail order is too significant to lose.

Nurseline Calls [Back to top]

The 24-hour nurseline was added in July, and has had pretty good utilization in the first quarter of implementation. This service allows members to call a nurse at anytime to ask advice or get answers to medical questions. The nurse on the line can help direct the caller to the right level of care. In 65% of the cases so far, a person wondering if they needed to go to the emergency room was re-directed to a different option. The number for the Nurseline (800-841-8343) is printed on the front of every member’s insurance card.

Integrated Health Management/Case Management [Back to top]

Premera’s integrated health management program includes healthy living tools on their website, personal health support coaching (formerly through Alere) health case management services, care transition management and coaching. Their follow-up case management support can help prevent return trips to the hospital and identify gaps in care. It is important to know that Premera does this, since otherwise an unsolicited call from the insurance company could be a little alarming. An example of this might be that a nurse calls after a major surgery or hospitalization to make sure that any questions have been answered, treatment is being followed, to discuss options and decisions ahead, and to address medical needs.

Personal Health Support [Back to top]

The personal health support service is an option for persons with one of five conditions that consume approximately 75% of healthcare resources and have a strong correlation between lifestyle and health: asthma, diabetes, heart failure, coronary artery disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Formerly this service was done through Alere, and anyone enrolled in their support program has been transferred over to Premera. Members are identified then stratified based on the severity of their condition and potential future risk. Licensed RN’s, behavioral health specialists and dieticians trained in health coaching and motivational interviewing work with participants in this voluntary program to help set care goals and remove barriers to optimal health. Once engaged with coaching, members’ co-payments for select generic medications for treating these five conditions are waived. Coaching includes receiving calls every 4 to 6 weeks, quarterly condition-specific newsletters and digital health coaching resources.

Prior Authorization [Back to top]

Beginning in July 2014, Premera will begin requiring prior-authorization for non-emergency procedures. This process will assure coverage before certain services are provided, help contain costs and ensure fast claim payment. Prior authorization also protects members from risk and harm by avoiding procedures that do not show a benefit. There will not be a penalty for members under this new policy, but physicians could face non-payment if they fail to contact Premera for prior-authorization. While new to UA’s plan, prior-authorization is standard on practically every other health plan, and is common practice for health providers.

Website, Mobile Applications and Other Resources [Back to top]

The Premera website and mobile application are great resources for plan members. Express Scripts has its own application too for tracking pharmacy claims and utilization. In addition, UA’s benefits website includes a lot of valuable information for plan members. If you have not yet downloaded the Premera and Express Script applications you should consider it now. It can help locate an in-network provider, track deductibles and more.

Vendor Summit 2013 [Back to top]

On the second day, all of UA’s health benefit vendors made presentations to the committee and thus to each other. Through this process of sharing and collaborating our plan partners can find better ways to work together.

Premera [Back to top]

The team from Premera opened the discussion. They did not repeat the presentation from the day before, but answered questions and discussed additional topics.

Premera is actively working to expand their network of contracted providers and address ways of further reducing plan costs. Alaska has the nation’s third highest cost of health care. Some regulatory issues that Premera is investigating include limits to the Usual and Customary Reimbursement (UCR) rates and a pay-to statute being introduced in the Alaska legislature. These measures strive to limit how much costs can rise. They are also working to train and educate referring facilities on our preferred air ambulance/medevac service. Premera has two in-network air ambulance services, LifeMed and Airlift North. But the market dominant Guardian Flight is often called first. The difference in cost can be over $100,000. By limiting the use of non-network providers, huge cost-savings can be achieved.

Medical travel support [Back to top]

Medical travel support, sometimes called medical tourism, is a new Premera offering that allows members to take advantage of lower costs outside for 17 specific procedures all considered safe for travel and demonstrate guaranteed cost avoidance. It is an elective process, requiring the member to initiate the process by calling customer service for approval. So far the volume of inquiry has been pretty low, indicating that further communication on this new benefit is needed.

Best Doctors [Back to top]

Cheryl Warren, account executive for Best Doctors described this virtual second opinion and expert referral service. Obstacles to effective care make second opinions common. Doctors may be rushed, unfamiliar with developments in treatment options, overlook some details, or make an error in their diagnosis, treatment or procedure recommendations. A professional second opinion ensures members have the right diagnosis and treatment plan. There are four main services offered by Best Doctors: Inter consultation— a confidential second opinion; Ask the Expert—an alternative to trying to find answers on the Internet; Find Best Doc— a referral service for specialists and health care providers; Digital records—a collection and digitization service of a member’s medical records. Best Doctors only deals with medical cases, not dental or behavioral health concerns.

If a plan member seeks a second opinion, they begin with a call to Best Doctors (866-904-0910) and set up an appointment. A team is assigned to the case, and the member authorizes the release of their medical records. The team gathers the relevant information and summarizes case. Then top-rated specialists review the case. They re-look at everything, including x-rays and other test results. The specialists then write a recommendation on whether the diagnosis, treatment plan or procedure recommendation are right. Through the team, they send their recommendation back and review them with member. The team is trained to help answer questions and provide information to the member. In the case that a different conclusion was made by the specialist, they offer advice for approaching the original doctor with the new information. In general doctors are accustomed to second opinions and are open to the advice of top specialists in their fields. The entire process may take 4 to 5 weeks for the records to transfer, be summarized, thoroughly reviewed and a new (or confirming) recommendation sent back to the member.

Best Doctors had 30 consultations for UA in the past year, and of them 23% had a change of diagnosis and 71% a change in treatment. In general, 60% of the time there is either a wrong diagnosis and/or treatment; it’s the biggest reason a second opinion service is so important.

VSP [Back to top]

Regular eye exams are an important part of medical care. Certain conditions, including diabetes and glaucoma, affect vision. Diabetes is the number one cause of vision deterioration. VSP, our vision care vendor, is setting up data sharing with Premera to help identify individuals whose medical claims indicate a potential correlation with vision deterioration due to an underlying chronic condition. In some cases VSP providers are the first to detect signs of chronic conditions.

There are three steps to VSP’s eye health management process: medical data collection, patient exam and condition report and exam reminder report. The medical data collection is used to generate the patient exam and condition report which provides HIPAA-compliant data on chronic conditions to the university. The data can help identify individuals who could be engaged in programs to help manage a chronic condition. The exam reminder report tracks follow up eye exam visits and sends reminders to members for important regular exams.

As part of a VSP benefit promotion, they will extend the frame/contact lens allowance by $20 starting Jan. 1. That will increase the allowance from $150 to $170. The average claim cost was $121.98 last fiscal year.

They want to drive members more to the website. There is low visitation by plan members.  The Website includes frame styles carried by vision doctors in the area and other resources for members. Visit vsp.com for more information.

ComPsych [Back to top]

Shannon Reaska presented information on the employee assistance program (EAP) from ComPsych. ComPsych is working to break the notion that the EAP is just for psychological concerns and is actually a very comprehensive program providing guidance tools and resources on many family, legal, financial and wellness topics. Their website contains more than 80 free eBooks and 20 mobile apps on a wide range of helpful topics. That is in addition to the videos, podcasts resource guides and other media content available at their site GuidanceResources Online. There is very low utilization by our plan members of family services offerings. There is opportunity to enhance engagement in these services.

The GuidanceResources Program includes:

EAP services— Free short-term counseling, management referral, training/seminars, critical incident and stress management support services, management consultation

FamilySource— Unlimited referral and resources for: childcare, elder care, education, relocation, daily living issues, etc.

LegalConnect— Unlimited consultation with a ComPsych attorney, free 30 min consultation with a lawyer in your community, percent discount off services by a lawyer. Coverage for: parent rights, civil/criminal issues, divorce, etc.

GuidanceResources Online— thousands of articles on helpful topics, tools and calculators, videos on various topics, searches for lawyers, childcare, nursing homes, discount programs, helpful monthly email tip sheets

EstateGuidance— Online access to will documentation tools and simple to follow questions that work as a guide through the creation of a legally binding will

Onsite or online training workshops can be scheduled on a number of different personal development or work-life topics ranging from parenting, legal and finance, behavioral health and wellness. Visit guidanceresources.com, and enter the company web ID for the University of Alaska: GC5901Q. Or call 866-465-8934.

Healthyroads [Back to top]

UA’s newest vendor is Healthyroads. Their services are anticipated to roll out with Web access beginning in January and on-site implementation in February with onsite coaches available March 1.  Full implementation of the program will be complete by July 1.

Healthyroads has been offering health coaching and wellness services for 12 yrs. The services they will be providing the university include online health improvement tools, biometric screenings, health risk assessments, and coaching services, including online, telephonic and onsite. The results will be used to help members identify individual ways to improve their health and generally build a healthier workforce.

The personal health assessment will integrate biometric data to give a more accurate picture of member health. Each plan member will have access to a comprehensive member portal with the results of their health assessment and educational resources to address health risks and help develop a health improvement plan. Their personal scorecard will be integrated into a personal action plan based on their risk profile. The scorecard will be updated as new data is received.

The Website Healthyroads.com contains far more than just the personal health improvement plans. They provide free health trackers for diet and exercise, online coaching courses, personalized SMS and/or email health tips, challenges and competitions, educational resources and a medical library. They also have mobile devices options for many of the trackers and services.

The personal health assessment will be used to identify and engage high-risk individuals into programs to help them improve their health through increased activity, nutrition, stress management weight loss, or tobacco cessation. All of this is done through a HIPAA safe process with no individual data disclosure to UA.

Healthyroads Lifestyle coaching program addresses four primary health risks: nutrition, exercise, tobacco use and stress management. The coaches all hold a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in a health-related field, and are overseen by senior-level coaches of registered dieticians, registered nurses, licensed medical professionals and other professional staff. Members work with one coach throughout the entirety of the program. Coaching will be available Monday through Friday 5 a.m. to 6 p.m. AKST and Saturday 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. Enrollment to the program can be done online or by phone. Phone-in coaching services will be available to employees anywhere in the system. In addition, onsite coaching will be available in Fairbanks, Anchorage and Juneau

In addition to personal, individual coaching services, there is a “ask-a-coach” service available to all eligible members featuring a secure online message box. Members can use this to ask general personal health questions from any of the Healthyroads coaches. The wellness program through Healthyroads will be available to all health plan enrolled employees and their spouses/partners.

Program Integration [Back to top]

The summit concluded with a brainstorming session on the integration of services. A key topic was “warm referrals”— or the process whereby one vendor suggests the services of another vendor. For example if a person enrolled in personal health coaching becomes diagnosed with a chronic condition, their Healthyroads coach can refer them to Premera’s Personal Health Support services with its associated waiver of maintenance drugs co-pays. Similarly they can refer members to employee assistance programs for additional resources to address underlying work-life conditions affecting stress and job performance.

Representatives from each company committed to meet together in January to further discuss better ways to integrate their services for the improved health of UA plan members.

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Reduction of tuition benefit to be on December BOR Agenda

Hello UA Staff. I am your Staff Alliance Chair, Carey D. Brown, and I would like to update you on developments from the most recent Board of Regents (BOR) meeting held in Anchorage on November 6, 2013. This meeting was primarily regarding the budget. However, Staff Alliance, Faculty Alliance, and the Coalition of Student Leaders were allowed to provide an update on their respective activities. There was also public testimony allowed.

During the first budget agenda motion, approval of student tuition rates for Academic Year 2015, a lengthy discussion about how to address perpetually rising tuition and student debt ensued. During this, Regent Fisher proposed an ammendment eliminating the tuition increase for all residents and recovering that income by cutting the tuition benefit for employees in half. The topic was out of order for this BOR meeting because it addresses policy change, but we can very much anticipate the resurgence of this topic at the December BOR meeting in Fairbanks. I will be in attendance at this meeting representing staff concerns.

I would like to urge our local governance groups to bring this topic up at your next meeting. This proposed amendment to this motion by Regent Fisher neglected the transparency expected by staff regarding our benefits. President Gamble has supported and approved revisions to the educational benefit as recently as November 2012. An excerpt from The Statewide Voice (Nov. 2012, Issue #72) reads:

“The tuition benefit is an important part of the overall compensation package for a UA employee. A benefit program like ours not only creates a sense of employee loyalty, but it directly impacts retention in a positive way, which far outweighs the cost. Many colleges and universities provide educational benefits to employees and almost half of all public institutions provide waivers for dependents. It keeps a university competitive with peer institutions and helps attract and retain quality staff and faculty. The tuition waiver program also keeps employees in closer touch with the classroom environment.”

As we anticipate this topic to be discussed at the next BOR meeting, staff are encouraged to communicate with their governance groups to share their feedback on this proposal and are encouraged to testify if possible.

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Possible New Vendor for our Wellness program -

As you may have heard, the contract for our wellness provider, WIN for Alaska ends September 30, 2013. As part of the procurement process, an RFP went out earlier this year. UA received multiple bids to review and compare. A committee reviewed all of the details of the bids. After much research and comparison, a new provider was selected. A notice of purchase through HealthyRoads (www.healthyroads.com/‎) was recently announced and there has been a formal protest submitted by another bidder. The protest is currently being reviewed and a final decision will be made after August 16 2013.

To follow State of Alaska law, the University of Alaska cannot respond to requests for information regarding the protest. Staff Alliance met with the Director of Benefits (Erika Van Flein) to receive this update and request as much information as possible. We will keep all UA staff informed of any updates or changes when the information becomes available. If you would like more information about our benefits please go to http://www.alaska.edu/benefits/.

Please contact your Staff Alliance representatives with any questions/concerns.

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Staff Alliance discuss major issues during annual two-day retreat

New and veteran members of Staff Alliance launched a new year during a two-day retreat August 7 and 8, 2013. The eight-member body comprises staff governance leaders from across the system.

The following is an overview of some of the key topics addressed during the two-day retreat, and opportunities for you to provide input on some of these priority issues. To jump directly to the section click on the topic heading:

2013-2014 Staff Alliance Members:

  • Carey Brown, UAA APT Council
  • Kathleen McCoy, UAA Classified Council
  • Gwenna Richardson, UAS Staff Council
  • Dayna Mackey, UAS Staff Council
  • Brad Krick, UAF Staff Council
  • Ashley Munro, UAF Staff Council
  • Alex Amegashie, Statewide Administration Assembly
  • Monique Musick, Statewide Administration Assembly

Performance Evaluation (Top)
For years governance groups have been working with university administration to develop a performance evaluation tool. Annual performance evaluations are called for in university regulation, but in practice do not happen regularly. President Gamble recently proposed a new tool designed to evaluate more than just job performance, rather to evaluate the whole person including their interactions with co-workers in addition to rating the quality of their work.

Following input and review from governance, Gamble’s intention is to use it for Statewide employees. For that reason the Statewide Administration Assembly, or SAA, (the staff governance group for Statewide employees) is taking the lead on collecting and providing feedback. Gamble will leave it up to the chancellors to decide if they want to use it at their campuses, but Staff Alliance feels that it is important to seek feedback from staff throughout the system, whether or not the new form will be required, simply because the tool will be available and it is likely that it will be used on other campuses in the future.

It is important to note that this is still in draft form. SAA members have received considerable feedback so far on the language used in ratings, the length, subjectivity and complexity of the form, ideas on the evaluation process, concerns about supervisor training for using the form and concerns about the length of time this new evaluation tool could require.  There has also been really positive feedback in particular on the goal setting part of the form. It has also been suggested that this level of review be opened up to include peer on peer and employee on manager evaluations. A special committee has been formed by SAA to evaluate and compile the feedback and prepare suggested modifications to the UA administration.

To review the proposed form and provide feedback please visit the SAA website. Please include your MAU in the comment field so we can track the origin of the feedback we receive. Thanks for participating in the review process: http://www.alaska.edu/governance/saa/performance-evaluation/

Compensation Working Group Proposals (Top)
Earlier on this blog you were introduced to the compensation working group and the proposals that they forwarded to the administration. There are some questions that Statewide Human Resources has on several of the proposals, and a special working group has been identified to work with them to answer questions, evaluate costs and vett the viability of the proposals. The discussion is still very much in progress, so please feel welcome to provide feedback on any of the proposals on this blog or directly to working group chair Monique Musick at mmusick@alaska.edu.

FY15 Budget, Compensation increase (Top)
On both a national and state level the fiscal outlook is fairly grim. While Alaska has not been hit as bad as some states during the recession, the uncertainty around the state budget, including the possible recall of HB341, leads to a lot of speculation about the future funding of the university. On July 29, the state Office of Management and Budget sent a memorandum to President Gamble outlining the Governor’s budget guidelines and priorities. Not surprisingly Parnell is calling for a flat budget request. Not only are state agencies being asked to submit a FY15 budget with no increases but also to identify potential savings opportunities.

The budget guidance memo did say that statewide priorities including salary increases, and on the capital side, ongoing and partially funded projects, (for instance the remaining funding for the engineering buildings) will be considered. Deferred maintenance will also continue to be funded. But the overall message is that no increases will be funded.

Staff Alliance members reviewed data including the consumer price index, market basket surveys and geo-differential data; the projected funding for state employees; and the ongoing negotiations with unions at the university, and came up with a general range that seems most reasonable for a cost of living compensation adjustment. While Staff Alliance has no bargaining powers or the like, we do intend to formally share our discussion findings with administration as they work on developing the budget.

Career development (Top)
A Career Development Plan is a formal process developed between an employee and his or her supervisor establishing training and skill development goals and steps for advancing in the department or university. Many staff are unaware that such planning tools exist. There is an interest in increasing awareness about career planning and succession tools. There was also an interest in really encouraging the university to hire from within as much as possible as a way of providing employees greater advancement potential.

Human Resources (Top)
The afternoon of the first day Michelle Rizk, Interim Chief Human Resources Officer; Tara Ferguson, Director of Compensation; Erica Van Flein, Director of Benefits; and Anne Sakumoto, Director of Staff Training and Development spoke with the group about a range of Human Resources issues.

Chief Human Resources Officer (Top)
President Gamble has made an offer to Erik Seastedt for the Chief Human Resources Officer position. There has been no official response. Alliance members had the opportunity to meet with Seastedt and ask some questions when he visited Fairbanks for his second interview on August 1. He has over 24 years of experience in human resources.

Compensation increase FY14 (Top)
A 3.25 percent compensation increase was reflected in paychecks beginning August 9. The increase was applied to the first full pay period in July, the new fiscal year. In a quirk of the calendar, the first of July was on a Monday, meaning that pay period actually began in June. The first FULL pay period in July began on the 14th through the 27th. Because the university payroll is two weeks delayed, the increase wasn’t seen on checks for an additional two weeks, thus accounting for the “delay.”

Bullying (Top)
Based on feedback collected during the work life survey Staff Alliance sent out last year President Gamble has moved forward an training program on bullying that will be required for all Statewide staff and encouraged throughout the system. The training defines bullying, compares it to harassment, and helps to define what behaviors are and are not acceptable in the work environment. It is still under development and an initial draft is expected to be shared with governance leaders soon.

Wellness program (Top)
As you may have heard, the contract for our wellness provider, WIN for Alaska ends this fall. As part of the procurement process, an RFP went out earlier this year. UA received multiple bids to review and compare. A committee reviewed all of the details of the bids. After much research and comparison, a new provider was selected. A notice of purchase through HealthyRoads was recently announced and there has been a formal protest submitted by another bidder. The protest is currently being reviewed and a final decision will be made after August 16th.

To follow State of Alaska law, the University of Alaska cannot respond to requests for information regarding the protest. Staff Alliance has met with the Director of Benefits to receive this update and request as much information as possible. We will keep all UA staff informed of any updates or changes when that information becomes available.

Staff Make Students Count (Top)
The June meeting of the Board of Regents is typically when the Staff Make Students Count award is distributed. The June meeting is also one of the busiest of the year and changing schedules and busy agenda mean that the recognition is often rushed or overshadowed. It was suggested that the nomination period and deadline be moved up so that the award goes out at the April meeting. It was brought up that the April meeting is usually held at a remote campus, impacting the cost of travel. A final decision on when to hold the recognition event is pending budget review.

Smoke Free Campus (Top)
The proposal for a smoke-free/tobacco-free campus was brought before the Board of Regents by a group of students. In April BOR heard from students that were in favor of a SF/TF campus, while at the June meeting they heard from students that opposed the measure. Administration is requesting feedback from governance groups regarding a SF/TF campus policy. Some topics discussed were enforcement, campus definition, designated smoking areas/sheltered areas and potential impacts to tenants on UA owned property or impacts to non-UA occupants in shared buildings. We’d also like to hear from our constituents regarding their feelings on this matter. Please provide your feedback in a comment below or directly to your governance representative.

President Gamble and Vice President Thomas (Top)
The two-day retreat ended with a discussion with UA President Pat Gamble and Vice President of Academic Affairs Dana Thomas. They had spent the entire day in a budget meeting with the chancellors. At that meeting each chancellor presented his priority budget requests. As mentioned before the guidance from the governor’s office was to bring forward a flat budget. They will be working to prioritize the funding requests and to work on developing a budget for the initial submission to the Board of Regents in September. The November meeting of the Regents is entirely focused on the budget that is submitted to the governor in December. In January it goes to the legislature.

The Strategic Direction Initiative has progressed into its third and final implementation and integration stage. They are finalizing the effect statements, or specific outcomes that the university will be working for and developing the metrics for evaluating those effects.

Student success is one of the five major themes of the SDI. We discussed some of the challenges the university faces, including the extremely high numbers of non-traditional students at UA coupled with 80 percent of high school graduates not being adequately prepared for college curriculum and requiring remedial coursework. Alaska also ranks low in college going rates and our completion rates are also dismal. These and other hurdles is one of the many goals of the Strategic Direction Initiative.

As staff we are a crucial part of building the environment that students encounter at the university. We were charged to take pride in our participation and to strive to provide the highest quality service possible, to students and each other. We need empowered employees making the right choices to provide excellent support and assistance to university communities.

Election (Top)
An election was held for officers. The Vice Chair is Monique Musick. The Chair position will be filled at the next meeting when all members are present and after Staff Alliance representatives have had the opportunity to discuss being a Chair with their supervisor. Musick will act as interim chair until the Chair is elected.

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