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March 30, 1995


Staff Association Council concerned about benefits changes

To the editor:

The Steering Committee of the Staff Association Council (SAC) has directed me to communicate our concerns to the University community regarding recent and pending changes in University policies that affect staff salaries, fringe benefits and working conditions. As full and equal partners in the governance process, SAC feels that any further reduction in compensation funding will cause irreparable harm to Pitt's reputation and to its ability to serve students, produce significant research, and perform vital public service.

In more than 25 years of service to the staff and to the University, SAC has created important policies and participated meaningfully in making critical decisions. For example, last year we participated in the task force whose recommendations led to the painful cuts in the fringe benefits package. At the time, we felt that these decisions were made in good faith. We believed that the University was doing everything in its power to meet financial challenges in a reasonable and fair manner.

During the past year, however, policies have been developed with little or no SAC input. SAC members are being told that proposals are confidential and that crucial information cannot be released to our constituents. Our informed input is not being respected as elected representatives of thousands of staff employees. And when SAC supplies feedback to proposed actions (for example, the recently created severe weather/emergency policy), it is often ignored.

The Steering Committee is concerned that, despite our best efforts, the staff are not being heard. Even the one thousand people attending last fall's Staff Assembly seem to have done little to change the way decisions are being made. A proposed policy mandating that all replacement or new staff positions in academic units be converted to nine-month positions is being discussed with a deadline of May 15. While SAC has participated in discussions about specific fringe benefits, a cafeteria benefits framework will soon be created that has had little SAC input and may take another bite out of staff paychecks yet again.

While we recognize that staff and faculty compensation is the largest portion of the Educational and General budget, there are other areas of the University budget wherein cuts can be explored. Temple University recently proposed a 5% cut in the salaries of their senior administrators. We would hope that the serious re-examination of proposed capital projects and Plant Funds transfers now occurring will reveal savings that will make staff reductions unnecessary. The faculty and staff do care about the University's well being. But, there is only so much that a staff member feeding a family on wages at or below poverty levels can be asked to do about the University's financial situation.

SAC must maintain a meaningful role in decision making. The Steering Committee asks the University administration to defer any proposed reduction in the University's fringe benefits package or any further significant change in the employees' working conditions indefinitely until the staff and faculty can be fully educated. A continued assault on wages, benefits and the workplace will only further erode morale, productivity and our ability to attract and retain quality staff and faculty.

But, we need the support of all staff. The Staff Association Council is asking all staff and faculty to write or call the Office of Human Resources to voice your concerns on this issue. Only by speaking up will staff be heard. We know that sacrifices must be made if the University is to survive and thrive in today's environment. However, if sacrifices must be made, why not help all employees understand why they must occur and then empower them to participate in making the best decisions?

Darlene E. Harris


Staff Association Council


I've got the blues

To the editor:

I've got the blues…whether I like it or not. I've got the blues because my concerns, and those of thousands of others at this University, were clearly ignored.

I've got the blues because I work in a place that says "your voice counts," sets up meaningless committees and surveys to gauge public opinion, and, in the end, does what it wants (or what it set out to do in the first place).

I've got the blues because I work for an administration that makes important decisions unilaterally and dictatorially.

I've got the blues because my employer made an unwise business decision — penny wise and pound foolish — in inviting a monopoly on campus.

I've got the blues because my healthcare future offers inept and rigid bureaucracy, endless paperwork, higher premiums, higher deductibles or copays — more complications and costs and less actual health care.

I've got the blues because I am refused the health care of my past and present: preventive medicine, quality and caring service, flexibility, ease of service — a not-always-perfect health care provider, but one that was willing to listen and make improvements based on patients'/subscribers' needs and concerns.

I've got the blues because now I don't need further proof that individuals do not matter at Pitt; only money does.

I've got the blues because now my hands are tied.

I've got the blues all right… whether I like it or not.

Tracie A. Stufft

Managing Editor

University Relations and

Graduate Student School of Social Work

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