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March 19, 2009

SAC to recommend alternatives in light of salary freeze

The Staff Association Council (SAC) may recommend alternatives to staff compensation now that the University has announced a salary freeze for fiscal year 2010. (See March 5 University Times.)

Libby Hilf, reporting for the absent chair of SAC’s salary and job classification committee, said at the March 11 meeting that the group is drafting a letter to Human Resources.

“As a result of the chancellor’s announcement that next year’s budget will not include a salary increase pool, the committee will be drafting a letter [as an] alternative to the annual salary recommendation letter, to recommend the implementation of non-monetary compensation in lieu of salary increases for FY10 only,” Hilf said. She said the committee still is developing its recommendations for alternatives.

If the draft of the letter is approved by the committee, it will be brought to SAC’s steering committee for final approval, she noted, before being sent to Human Resources.

SAC President Rich Colwell reiterated his contention that the University is not planning employee layoffs. (See Jan. 22 University Times.) Colwell said that normal employee turnover happens at all large organizations, including Pitt. “In any regular business there are going to be people terminated, and there have been [a few] layoffs here, but no major layoffs are planned,” he said.

Sherry Shrum, chair of the benefits committee, reported on the recently completed employee benefits online survey. (See related story this issue.)

Shrum said the survey garnered nearly 1,000 participants, the vast majority of whom (approximately 80 percent) either were satisfied or very satisfied with Pitt’s benefits offerings.

The most common complaint involved MetLife, the vendor that manages the federal Family and Medical Leave Act for University employees. Complaints focused on the lack of MetLife communication channels and delays in customer response time, Shrum said.

“We also learned from the survey that about 30 percent of respondents did not know what Life Solutions is, so HR now knows that we need to get more information on Life Solutions out to employees,” she said.

(Life Solutions, formerly the Faculty and Staff Assistance Program, is a confidential counseling service to assist Pitt faculty and staff and members of their households with personal and work-related concerns. For more information, go to

In other SAC developments:

• SAC has rescheduled its spring assembly for April 14. The assembly, featuring a marketplace on health and wellness, is set for noon-2 p.m. in the William Pitt Union Assembly Room. On April 8 (the previously announced date for the assembly) the staff council will hold its regular monthly meeting.

• Hilf has been named interim vice president for marketing and communication while current vice president Angie Coldren is on leave.

• Colwell said SAC was exploring holding future meetings in the renovated University Club, which is expected to open April 1.

• Fred Schiffer, chair of the safety and security committee, said CPR classes are being scheduled.

“With many of us working longer hours, as a committee we’re also looking to address concerns about drivers being sleepy when driving home from work and what advice we can provide,” he said.

SAC member Joe Brun asked the committee to address concerns over buses that exceed the speed limit in the Forbes-Fifth corridor, particularly in the contra traffic lane on Fifth Avenue.

SAC member Dewi Wong asked the committee to investigate why there are no “One-way” signs on Thackeray Street at either the O’Hara Street or Fifth Avenue intersections. There is a “Do not enter” sign at Fifth and Thackeray, but its placement is on the Downtown side of the crosswalk and difficult for motorists to read, she said.

• The elections committee continues to compile a slate of officer candidates. Members may be nominated to run for officer posts up until the May 20 SAC meeting. Current officers urged SAC members to run for office, but cautioned that serving as an officer means a commitment of up to 30 hours a month.

• Colwell urged staff who hadn’t already done so to subscribe to the University’s emergency notification system, which is accessible on the Pitt portal web site (

• The staff council applauded Gwen Watkins, vice president of steering, for being chosen as the cover model for the most recent issue of Pitt Magazine.

—Peter Hart

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