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December 7, 1995

Mid-year salary hikes approved for lower paid staff and faculty

Eligible Pitt employees earning $35,000 or less should find their paychecks a little fatter in January.

Interim Chancellor Mark Nordenberg has approved pay raises ranging from $540 to $348 for eligible employees. The raises are retroactive to July 1.

In a Dec. 5 memorandum, Nordenberg said that salary increases will be given in January to Pitt regular full-time and regular part-time faculty and non-unionized staff who held that employment status on Jan. 1 and were employed here on June 30.

The pay increases include eligible employees in the School of Medicine. When news of a possible raise for lower paid employees surfaced early last month, medical school employees were left out because their salaries do not come out of Pitt's education and general budget, which is the source for most other University employees' salaries.

Nordenberg did not say why plans were changed to include employees of the medical school either in his Dec. 5 memorandum or at yesterday's (Dec. 6) Staff Association Council (SAC) Assembly, where he was the featured speaker.

"Obviously, this is not a perfect plan," Nordenberg wrote in the memorandum. "However, it is a well-reasoned and well-intentioned effort to maximize the benefits that might be created through the distribution of the limited funds available." The approximately $1.4 million available for salary increases is to be distributed according to principles advocated by the University Planning and Budgeting Committee. UPBC had recommended: * The payment of differential amounts, with the highest amounts going to the lowest paid employees.

* The provision of at least a cost-of-living increase, 2.7 percent, for employees earning $20,000 or less.

* The inclusion of employees earning up to $35,000, as long as that could be accomplished without granting salary increases of less than 1 percent.

Both the University Senate budget policies committee and SAC endorsed the raise plan, according to Nordenberg, but with the understanding that the move was an exception and would not be viewed as a precedent-setting departure from established salary policies.

If necessary administrative work can be completed in time — and Nordenberg said he is optimistic it can — regular full-time staff and faculty earning $23,000 or less will receive a raise of $540 between January and June.

Employees earning between $23,001 and $35,000 will receive gradually decreasing dollar amounts, ranging from $524 to $348 (see accompanying chart for details).

Eligible regular part-time staff and faculty will receive salary increases on a pro-rated basis.

SAC President Brian Hart, who as a SAC member helped to develop the raise policy, acknowledged that there are serious questions about the way the salary increase was formulated. According to Hart, the most frequent complaints about the salary increases have come from long-time Pitt employees who say they have not been treated fairly because the plan excluded them or gave them raises lower than 2.7 percent. Other employees complained that none of the increases were large enough.

While acknowledging that all the complaints are legitimate, Hart said: "When you have $1.4 million to deal with and you have 3,200 staff employees and some lower paid faculty as well, it is very, very difficult to spread that money in such a way that everybody feels as if they've gotten something." Hart told the audience that SAC would oppose any attempts to use the January salary increase as a model for future raises. He pointed out that there is a University salary policy and that SAC "will ask again and again that it be the mechanism through which raises are granted." Interim Chancellor Nordenberg told the audience that everyone who was involved in developing the policy for the January salary increases knew that, due to the small amount of money available, a lot of people would be unhappy.

For that reason, Pitt fiscal planners considered foregoing any salary raises this year, he said. Even if there would be "expressions of dissatisfaction," Nordenberg said the fiscal planners who developed the policy decided it was important to take what funds were available and "to channel them into the salaries that we pay our people, hopefully providing some tangible evidence of the priority that we attach to the individuals whose work is critical to the advancement of the institution." In response to a question from the audience about the possibility of a general salary increase for all University employees in July, Nordenberg said it is impossible at this time to make a firm prediction for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

"What I can say is that the priority [ attached to employees] remains in place and will be reflected in the decisions that are made as we have a better sense of the financial picture that we will be confronting for the next academic or fiscal year," Nordenberg said.

–Mike Sajna

Filed under: Feature,Volume 28 Issue 8

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