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April 19, 2007


To the editor:

I am writing this letter in response to the Human Resources guideline changes regarding former Pitt employees who are rehired.

The concern of most importance is the impact that the changes have on staff members who are involuntarily separated. Previously, those staff members could return to employment in the University within one calendar year and retain their benefits that were accrued with years of service. That guideline has changed to a mere timeframe of 180 days.

While it is certainly possible for a staff member who was involuntarily separated to be rehired within that timeframe into the University system, there are many factors that could prevent employment. These include a lack of opportunities in their specialty, the time lag in the interview process and the time lag in the Office of Human Resources process. These factors are all out of the control of the former staff member.What is the most disappointing aspect of this guideline change was the way the University introduced it to the staff community. The change was made known to a select group of administrators at the end of the 2006 calendar year and the staff handbook was subsequently amended and placed on the Human Resources web site in 2007.

The comments regarding the change by Associate Vice Chancellor for Human Resources Ron Frisch, documented in the University Times March 22, 2007, edition, were also disappointing. Frisch said an analysis last fall on the impact of staff turnover revealed that of 149 former staff employees rehired in fiscal year 2006, 73 of them were hired more than one year after their termination date, and thus were starting over in terms of their benefits accrual.

He stated, “This is just one indicator that individuals are willing to return to the University regardless of service recognition.” Mr. Frisch should realize that in all probability, individuals in this group needed employment but were not content with losing their service.

The argument that not all employers offer this grace period for re-employment is also not very strong. Salaries and benefits vary from industry to industry and employer to employer. Therefore there are benefits offered at other employers that are not offered at Pitt and vice versa. This was one benefit valued by Pitt staff members that was indiscriminately taken away without the advice of the Staff Association Council. SAC is the officially recognized body of the University governance system that represents issues affecting the welfare of staff.

On behalf of the Staff Association Council, I request that this issue be revisited, and the former guideline of re-hires retaining their service for a period of one year be reinstituted. I also request that future University policy and guideline changes, especially those directly impacting staff members, be made with SAC having an opportunity to be a part of the decision-making process.

Richard Colwell


Staff Association Council


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