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March 30, 1995

9-month contract proposal being reviewed as cost-saving measure

Chances are good that Pitt full-time staff will soon have the option of reducing their appointments from 12 months to nine months a year — specifically, Aug. 15 through May 15.

Such a reduction would entail a proportionate cut in salary and vacation, but the staff member would retain medical coverage and most other benefits year-round.

Staff who volunteer to go to nine-month appointments would need their supervisors' approval to do so.

But it's possible that not all 12-month to nine-month conversions would be voluntary. According to the latest draft of the Office of Human Resources proposal, department heads forced to cut services and expenses could reduce the appointments of current full-time staff from 12 months to nine months against the staff members' wishes.

Supervisors also could cut replacement and new positions from 12 months to nine months. Such reductions would require approval from a dean, regional campus president or other responsibility center head, as would forcing a current employee to convert from a 12-month to a nine-month appointment.

The proposed nine-month staff appointment policy is aimed at reducing personnel budgets while avoiding layoffs of full-time staff, said Darlene Lewis, associate vice chancellor for Human Resources.

University senior administrators and the Pitt Deans Council's Business and Finance Working Group favor the proposal, Lewis said.

Darlene Harris, president of Pitt's Staff Association Council, said SAC's steering committee endorsed the plan yesterday, March 29, under two conditions:

* The policy must state that voluntary conversions to nine-month appointments be initiated by the affected employee.

* Staff whose appointments are reduced from 12 months to nine months against their wishes must have a grievance process to appeal such moves.

For some staff, such as parents who would like to spend summers looking after their children, the option of going to a nine-month appointment will be very attractive, said Harris. But the plan is impractical for lower-paid staff who can't afford a pro-rated cut in pay, the SAC president said.

Associate Vice Chancellor Lewis was unavailable for comment following the SAC vote. She had asked the council for feedback on the proposal by March 31.

Human Resources would like to present the plan for Chancellor J. Dennis O'Connor's approval by mid-April, Lewis said in an interview earlier this week. The goal is to implement the policy in time for participating staff to take the upcoming summer off, she said.

The current draft of the policy, dated March 23, describes reductions from 12-month appointments to nine-month appointments that would run Aug. 15 through May 15. But the final policy may be for reductions to 10-month appointments running Aug. 15 through June 15, Lewis said. "The original proposal was for 10-month appointments but the deans preferred nine months, so we changed it. At this point, it's just a draft that we're circulating to get feedback." The following excerpts are from the March 23 draft: Compensation "Compensation for employees on nine-month appointments is based on a 12-month annualized rate and is payable in 12 equal payments. The monthly rate is determined by dividing by 12 the annual salary that would be offered if the position were on a 12-month appointment and multiplying by nine." For example, one-twelfth of a $25,000 annual salary is $2,083.33. Multiplying $2,083.33 by nine equals a nine-month appointment salary of $18,749.97. The employee would receive the $18,749.97 in 12 equal, monthly paychecks.

Vacation, personal days, holidays and sick time "Employees on nine-month appointments accrue vacation based on length of service, pro-rated as follows: * Up to five years — 10 days times .75 = 7.5 days annually.

* Completion of five years — 15 days times .75 = 11.25 days annually.

* Completion of 10 years — 20 days times .75 = 15 days annually.

* Completion of 20 years — 25 days times .75 = 18.75 days annually.

"Earned vacation days must be taken during the nine-month assignment; earned vacation may not be carried over. Employees on nine-month appointments receive two personal days which also must be taken during the appointment period. Vacation and personal days are not payable as a cash benefit. Employees receive pay for all University paid holidays that occur within the Aug. 15-May 15 period, including winter recess. Holidays that occur outside of this time frame (Independence Day and Memorial Day) are not reimbursed.

"Sick time is accrued at the rate of one sick day per each month worked. The maximum sick time accumulation that can be carried over from one appointment period to the next is 120 days." Health care and optional group term life insurance "Employees on nine-month appointments are eligible to participate in health care and optional insurance programs offered by the University. There is no pro-rated reduction. Both the University and the employee contribute to these programs over the 12-month pay scale." Other insurance coverage "During the period Aug. 15-May 15 only, employees on nine-month appointments are included in certain insurance programs, the cost of which is paid entirely by the University. These include liability, travel accident, and workers' compensation. Employees are not covered under these insurance programs during the period of non-employment." Unemployment compensation, long-term disability, and retirement contributions "Employees who are on nine-month contracts are not eligible for unemployment compensation during the period of non-employment.

"In the event of disability, long-term disability benefits are payable the first month following six months of continuous disability.

"The University makes contributions to the employee's retirement program over the 12-month pay cycle." Educational benefits "Employees on nine-month appointments are eligible for employee, spouse, and dependent scholarships for all academic terms, under the same terms and conditions of those employees on 12-month status." ID cards and services "ID cards for employees on nine-month appointments are valid during the period of non-employment." Provisional period "Provisional periods of employment associated with nine-month appointments are six months for professional positions and three months for non-professional or clerical/secretarial and technical positions. Depending on the date of hire, completion of the provisional period may carry over from one appointment period to another. Provisional periods cannot be credited between May 16 and Aug. 14.

"Salary increases for employees on nine-month appointments coincide with the beginning of the academic year; employees are eligible for a salary review on Sept. 1 following completion of the provisional period. Employees on nine-month appointments are eligible for the same annual rate of increase as employees on 12-month appointments.

"Employees on nine-month appointments are evaluated annually on the same schedule as other classified staff positions." Period of non-employment "If an employee on a nine-month appointment is requested to work any time during the period May 16 through Aug. 14 to complete a project, the employee will be reimbursed at the hourly rate calculated by dividing the annualized salary by 1,950 standard hours. (For example: $25,000/1,950 hours = $12.82 per hour.) Vacation days and sick time are not accrued during this period." "During the period of non-employment, if an employee on a nine-month appointment wishes to pursue a temporary assignment at Pitt, this must be done through the Temporary Employment Pool. These temporary assignments must be outside the department in which the employee holds a nine-month appointment, and will be at an hourly rate determined by the assignment." According to Lewis, requests to work during the May 16-Aug. 14 period would be just that — requests, not orders.

"If the employee makes plans to travel or work at another job or whatever (during the non-employment period), he or she won't be punished for turning down the supervisor's request," Lewis said.

— Bruce Steele

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