Raises raise communication issue, Staff Council members say

The University administration has gotten better at telling the Pitt community about the annual salary increase pool and the possibility of merit raises, but it still has a lot of explaining to do, was the consensus at the July 18 Staff Council meeting.

Upcoming Staff Council meetings

The fall meetings all are at noon in Bellefield Hall, Room 102.

  • Sept. 19
  • Oct. 17
  • Nov. 28

The Aug. 15 meeting will be an orientation for new members only.

Discussion of the July 16 announcement of this fiscal year’s 2.25 percent salary pool increase left some grumbling at the meeting. The pool for 2018-19 offers a 1.5 percent raise for faculty and staff with satisfactory job performances, and the possibility of an additional 0.75 increase for merit, market conditions or equity.

Staff Council President Andy Stephany noted that he and Vice President for Public Relations Alex Toner sit on the University Planning and Budgeting Committee (UPBC), which helps to decide the salary increase.

“Human Resources is really interested in our perspective on what staff are looking for,” Stephany said. But he said the UPBC did not meet after the state announced a 3 percent increase in appropriations for state-related universities, and that the cost of living – part of the calculation for the 2018-19 raise amount – was based on a figure from fiscal year 2016-17.

“The raise process is not equal or necessarily extended to everyone,” he said.

Former officer Fiona Seels said Staff Council has been trying to work cooperatively with the University, but she still felt staff should have more information on salary increase decision making.

“They are losing trust through lack of transparency,” she said. “They can give us the right number and if people don’t trust the right answer, in the end it doesn’t matter.”

“I think the key issue here is they’re just busy working” on the issue, Stephany said.

Staff Council members said some University staff are still uncertain about the appeal process for individuals dissatisfied with the level of their increase, or whether such a thing even exists. Stephany directed them to a Human Resources column in this issue of the University Times, which provides answers to questions about the salary pool and a link to the department’s internal form for contacting Employee and Labor Relations with a dispute.

Stephany and Toner also have been working with Human Resources on other efforts to re-classify jobs and balance salaries with comparable positions outside the University. This has included aiding the Total Rewards program (which is currently undergoing a name change) and its Staff Engagement Survey

Waiting for results from the years-long process of job reclassification can be “really painful right now,” Stephany said. And he cautioned that “there won’t be a windfall of money” from the result.

Staff Council also discussed safety improvements to the pedestrian crossing on the western side of Fifth Avenue at Bellefield – improvements for which Staff Council has long pressed.

The city has now restricted traffic turning left onto Fifth from Bellefield from turning directly onto the two lanes closest to the counterflow bus lane. Traffic heading downtown on Fifth Avenue is also thus restricted to two lanes until well past the intersection. This allows greater separation between pedestrians and vehicle traffic. Other changes to improve intersection safety have been promised by the city. “Our advocacy worked,” Stephany said.


Marty Levine, martyl@pitt.edu, 412-758-4859