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May 11, 1995

Much of Staff Assembly devoted to discussion of reduced contract

Staff Association Council (SAC) was caught unaware at its Spring Assembly on May 4 when it was announced that the latest draft of the proposed appointment reduction policy calls for making permanent all changes in staff appointments from 12 months to 9 or 10 months.

SAC Director of Communications Susan Selai told staff members attending the assembly and watching it on video links on the Pittsburgh and regional campuses that the policy draft approved by SAC had made such changes negotiable on an annual basis.

"The fact is that in the policy we approved it was negotiable," Selai noted. "In other words, if I decided I didn't want to work it [a reduced appointment] this year, but wanted to work it next year, according to the policy we had that was negotiable." Vice Provost for Academic Planning and Resources Robert Pack said the most recent change in the proposed policy was initiated by the Council of Deans. He reported that the deans wanted appointment reductions made permanent because they felt it would be too difficult to re-configure staff positions from 12 months to 9 or 10 months every year.

According to Pack, the Council of Deans felt that such decisions could not be made on an annual basis because it would require "the constant shifting and reassignment of work, and the movement of money from salary to non-salary areas. It was not a decision they wanted to have to remake year after year." Pack said copies of the latest proposed appointment reduction draft were being sent to SAC for its review. He repeatedly stressed that all appointment changes from 12 months to 9 or 10 months remain "strictly, entirely voluntary.

"I have no target," he added. "No one has any targets about how many employees should do this or even will do this. I have deliberately not given one thought to the question: What is the goal? There is no goal." Pack also pointed out that even though appointment reductions are permanent in the latest policy draft, that does not mean a switch back to 12 months could never occur. He said it is very possible that mistakes will be made and that certain positions cannot function on a 9- or 10-month schedule. In those cases, the responsibility center head and the staff member involved could agree to return to a 12-month schedule.

According to Pack, the idea for 9-month and 10-month staff appointments arose about a year ago when the administration began looking at staffing needs and staffing patterns, and concluded that a number of positions could operate on a less than a 12-month schedule.

Pack said there is no need for rapid change to bring staffing needs and patterns into balance. He said the administration wants to concentrate on vacant staff positions to determine if they can be properly filled by staff members working 9 or 10 months a year.

"This is not an evaluation of an employee," he added. "It is an evaluation of work that is being done by a position and a determination about whether or not the nature of that work should be changed." Under the latest policy draft, a position could be changed from 12 months to 9 or 10 months if the staff member involved wants the change and if the responsibility center head agrees that the work involved can be done in less than 12 months.

In order to make the option as attractive as possible, staff members who take advantage of it would continue to receive benefits, such as health insurance and retirement benefits, on a 12-month schedule.

Pack also said that a position's off-period would not be restricted to the summer, although realistically that is when most people would be off. To make the plan viable in the eyes of responsibility center heads, units will be allowed to keep all money saved in salaries for use in other areas, such as the purchase of computers or the enhancement of programs within the unit.

Any employee who is interested in the program should express that interest to his or her immediate supervisor, who will explore the appropriateness of making their position either 9 or 10 months long, according to Pack.

The decision to change a position is solely at the discretion of the responsibility head who will determine whether or not a job can be done in 9 or 10 months. "Nevertheless," Pack said, "I think in many instances the responsibility center head will be responsive to a request." Pack then stressed again that the program is entirely voluntary. He said that should the proposed appointment reduction policy be approved by the University's senior administration, any staff member who feels he or she is being pressured to switch from 12 months to 9 or 10 months should inform their responsibility head.

Associate Vice Chancellor for Human Resources Darlene Lewis also attended the assembly and said that she hopes to have the proposed appointment reduction policy approved by the senior administration in time to go into effect on July 1.

–Mike Sajna

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