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January 9, 2003

Staff group objects to size of increases

Staff representatives yesterday denounced what they called “excessive” senior administrators’ raises and incentive payments.

Barbara Mowery, president of Pitt’s Staff Association Council (SAC), said: “We heard from many staff whose reactions to the raises and the bonuses and the fringes were anger and resentment, because in the past year we know some staff have maxed out on their salary ranges and did not get any raises despite outstanding job evaluations. We saw staff lose their positions because of budget cuts. We saw departments getting cut back. And we’re hearing that the health insurance [premiums] will increase next year — and yet administrators can get 8 to 14 percent raises.”

SAC members conceded that Pitt senior officers probably could earn higher salaries elsewhere. They also praised Chancellor Mark Nordenberg and his administration for increasing the University’s prestige.

“We don’t begrudge the chancellor his salary. Mark has done a great job,” Mowery said. “But the Board of Trustees who approved these raises are businessmen, and they’re looking at this [University] as a business. We don’t think that’s the model to follow.”

Mowery said SAC officers have asked for separate meetings with the chancellor and with William S. Dietrich II, chair of Pitt’s Board of Trustees, to discuss staff compensation.

“We’re going to stress that there are a lot of staff doing a good job and they deserve to be compensated,” Mowery said. “We’re not faculty with tenure, we’re not the people paying tuition, but we are the people who actually sell this University. We’re on the front line and we deserve recognition. To see that one of those [officer’s] bonuses would cover three staff salaries, a lot of staff are angry and resentful of that.”

Mowery said she would ask Dietrich and Nordenberg about the source of the administrators’ salary raises, awarded at a time when the University is cutting unit budgets, some staff are being laid off and the economy is slumping.

She also said she will seek a regular meeting of SAC officers and trustees to discuss staff concerns.

SAC plans to bring a resolution to Senate Council expressing staff views on compensation, following discussion at the next SAC meeting, set for Feb. 12.

Perks and deferred retention incentive payments attached to some of the administrators’ compensation packages also drew SAC members’ ire.

Regarding a $5,000 perk for medical expenses not covered by health insurance, Carol Hodgkiss, chair of SAC’s benefits committee, said her committee is “outraged, because staff can barely afford the benefits that are covered. If you have benefits here and you have a family, you have to pay approximately an additional $100 a month. Then you have your co-pay,” and other out-of-pocket expenses not covered by insurance.

SAC members also complained that staff at the top of the salary range in their job classification are ineligible for pay raises despite promises from the administration when the system was instituted in 1999 that this would not occur.

A sampling of other comments at yesterday’s meeting:

—“Why such high raises when they have such high salaries to begin with? They’re the ones who can already afford the cars and the country clubs and the health care not covered by insurance.”

—“It’s a slap in the face. The bottom line is they get hefty raises while we were asked to take a 2 percent cut in our operating budgets."

—“Don’t long-term staff deserve to have better than a 1.5 percent increase (the satisfactory performance minimum) at a time when others are receiving 14 percent?”

—“It’s not like the price of bread is going up drastically or they can’t keep up with the cost of living. Even if they got a standard staff raise, they’re still getting a huge amount of money.”

—Peter Hart

Filed under: Feature,Volume 35 Issue 9

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