Staff Senate Minutes - (approved 12/9/09)


A regular meeting of the Staff Senate was held on Tuesday, November 17,  2009 at Strand Union Building Room #236 9:00 to 11:00 a.m.  The following, marked with an X, were present.
Elected Members:


X

Steve Beasley

X

Gale Kinzie

A

Jan Bradley

X

Raechell Nielsen

A

Mary Engel

X

Jeannette Radcliffe

A

Deb Harrison

X

Kevin Thane

X

Neil Jorgensen

X

Justin van Almelo

A

Donna Kelly

A

Bill Van Horn

Attendance Code Key:  X = Attended     A=Apologies for Absence       Staff, Joan Ford, was in attendance.

Appointed Committee Members:  Sandy Tetro, Michael Dean, Shari Curtis, Beth Littlefield, Sheron McIlhattan, Kathy Sobrepena, and Carol Shannon.
 
A motion, made by Gail and seconded by Beth, to approve the October 28, 2009 minutes, was unanimously approved, with correction to the next meeting information. 

Business:

  1. Goals and Directions
    1. Recruitment and Retention.  In the past, Staff Senate’s focus has been on recruitment.  However, with the economic situation, there is a shift from recruiting to retaining employees.  Campus is seeing relatively full employment at this time.  The concern is, as the economy improves and employers outside the University begin hiring, MSU employees will leave the University.  It is important to use this time to mitigate any issues that would encourage employees to leave the University for employment elsewhere.
      1. New Hire Policy – according to MAP Implementation & Compensation Guidelines; approved by: Sheila Stearns, Commissioner of Higher Education; Effective Date: 6-20-05. (http://www.montana.edu/map/pay.html)  2.3.3 Hiring Authorities. Hiring authorities may not pay a newly-hired employee a higher entry rate than the base rate being paid any other employee with the same job title on the campus at which the vacancy exists. Exceptions will only be permitted when a higher rate is necessary to fill the vacancy and only when the newly-hired employee has demonstrably greater qualifications than any lower paid employee in the same job title. The evaluating "demonstrably greater qualifications" consideration should be given to directly relevant education and/or experience both within the Montana University System and external to the University System.”  This new hire policy, which does not affect wages, hours, or condition of employment, is currently being enforced.  An example of this was shared, “if someone is hired into an employment category i.e. Admin III, you can offer a wage no more that the lowest paid Admin III on campus, regardless of the candidates prior experience or qualifications.  This policy can be self-defeating because you want to attract folks that are experienced, and in the current climate, many of the applicants are over qualified.  If we want to keep those people, once the economy recovers, we can’t be paying them peanuts and expect that they won’t jump ship to work elsewhere for more money.”  It was noted that you have to be careful; in the past some departments were hiring people without the increased experience or qualifications because they had the funds to do so.  This policy was brought back, in part, because of this situation.  It was noted, in the past, when jobs were being left vacant because they could not find someone at the minimum pay rate, the offer was increased to attract someone to fill the job in that department.  A suggestion limiting equity from campus-wide to department-wide would be a wiser choice.  Some departments have more money than other departments, such as research dollars, and they are able to pay higher salaries for the same employment category.  This would then provide advancement within campus.  If you take a position on campus, at a lower dollar amount, you have the opportunity to move laterally to a different department that can pay more.   This opens up opportunities verses requiring all new hires in particular employment categories, i.e. all Admin III, to be hired at the lowest dollar.  Not all job category titles are the same; some departments require certifications or special training for the same job category title where another department does not.  By going back to this campus wide policy, the University may be causing its own problem.   A proposal to pursue changing the policy so that wages are set at the department level and not restricted to offering the lowest wage on campus and without an “experience” clause.  By straw vote, Staff Senate will pursue the new hire policy as a goal of the organization.
      2. Voluntary Time off is one of the cost cutting proposals being considered by the UPBAC Workgroup.  Closing the campus the week between Christmas and New Year’s was proposed.  Some classified employees are proposing more flexible number of days off i.e. at some point during the year versus the Christmas to New Year’s week.  Some classified groups often schedule work during off-peak times on campus such as the Christmas to New Years.  Concerns were expressed regarding the effect of this cost cutting suggestion on retirement and sick leave accrual.  It was noted that union approval will be required to implementing such a plan.   As state employees, the question was raised if Montana Code Annotated controlled the University’s ability to implement this change.    By straw vote, Staff Senate will pursue voluntary time off as a goal of the organization.
      3. MSU within the Community Context, Joan reported that she has begun researching statistics for the 2009 update of the Community Context document.  The current national unemployment rate of 10.2% is having a big effect on the local economy.  It appears most MSU employees are staying put.  Job openings for classified staff at the MSU Bozeman campus is very low, typically averaging less than 8 per month.  It was noted that with low inflation, the situation is not as bad as it was in 1982 when unemployment was over 10% and had a high inflation rate as well.
      4. Issue of classified staff morale was raised.  It was noted that most departments were holding the same or “just happy to have a job”.  One of the good things that is happening on campus is the HR training series “Solid Finances in Shaky Economic Times” which is well attended by classified staff. However, it was noted that specific job skills training is limited by some departments due to budget and staffing to cover for the individual receiving training.  Out of this discussion two items were raised as potential Staff Senate goals.  By straw vote, Staff Senate will pursue providing more training to classified staff for job improvement as a goal of the organization. By straw vote, Staff Senate will pursue classified employee appreciation, both within the classified rank and recognition from departments, as a goal of the organization.
      5. Pedestrian or bike and skateboard lanes on campus was proposed as a safety issue.  It was noted that this issue of bike and skateboard usage on campus has been pursued in the past but has not been enforcing it for awhile.  By straw vote, Staff Senate will pursue pedestrian safety as a goal of the organization.
      6. UPBAC is working on a strategic investment of “windfall” tuition dollars.  With student enrollment up by 450 students, there was increased revenue of $2.5 million dollars.  UPBAC is investing this extra money in areas such as:
        1. Returning funds removed from the Colleges as part of strategic adjustments.
        2. Building the reserve fund.
        3. UPBAC is soliciting the campus for investment project ideas.  Student recruitment is one of the ideas proposed to UPBAC.  Staff Senate discussed potential projects.  One idea that came out of this discussion was a free parking area in the area of South 19th and Garfield.  It is an easy walk to campus and there is a Streamline bus stop nearby.  By straw vote, Staff Senate tabled the free parking suggestion.
    2. VEBA (Voluntary Employees’ Beneficiary Association), Carol reported that it is a misnomer; the "Voluntary" part of VEBA does not apply to the employees.  If VEBA is requested then MSU is obligated to offer VEBA. The program invests and administers the pre-tax dollars from sources such as accrued sick and vacation pay as well as other sources voted on by the group each year.   If there is a VEBA group at MSU for which you qualify, you are obligated to the results of the vote.  Last year there were two groups in classified, age 50 and older Union and age 50 and older Non-union. The vote goes to everyone that could possibly be a part of the group but the group, once formed, is only retirees and non-active employees.  Annually, only the active employees in the defined groups vote, the retirees don't vote, with possibly different results than the previous year.  Once the vote has concluded, individuals cannot opt out if they didn’t like the outcome.   The definition of the groups and the voting options has been defined by HR in the past without input from Staff Senate.  HR is open to input from Staff Senate.  Per Sandy, the problems are resulting mostly because of the lack of information to classified staff and input from classified staff.  Staff Senate’s participation in redefining of groups will help resolve communication issues.  By straw vote, Staff Senate will pursue defining the classified VEBA groups as a goal of the organization.
  2. Board of Regents meets in Bozeman November 19 and 20.  The agenda for this meeting is available on the web at http://mus.edu/board/meetings/2009/Nov09/Nov09.asp.  Kevin highlighted a few items of interest at this meeting:
    1. Campus reports will be presented on Thursday starting at 9:00 a.m.
    2. Around 4:00 p.m. on Thursday the Regents will vote on Labor Agreements including  the labor agreement between the Montana University System and the Montana Public Employees Association.
    3. Governor Brian Schweitzer is scheduled to speak at the Regents meeting on Thursday, the exact time is undetermined.
  3. A Tobacco Free Campus Proposal was presented by ASMSU to President Gamble.  ASMSU notes that such a policy is not founded on the basis of questioning whether tobacco and second hand smoke are unhealthy; rather, it is a question of enforcement and a balance of rights.  The students are requesting more information from Jenny Haubenreiser, MSU Health Promotion, Student Health Service.  Raechell noted that many campuses across the country have adopted tobacco free environment policies. 

Committee reports:
MSU Benefits Committee, Shari and Carol reported that the HR training series “Solid Finances in Shaky Economic Times” will be including topics on MUS benefits.  The cost of health care has increased due to a significant increase in the cost in the price of medical services (an increase in cost per unit).  Prescription Drug Program (URx) has under gone a significant change to improve plan management.  A Quality Care Choice document was handed out to help navigate options, when a serious diagnosis is received.  For the full report go on the web at http://www.montana.edu/staffsenate/committees.html then select Benefits Committee and IUBC Reports (October 10/8-9/09).

Provost’s Sponsored Lunch Committee, Beth reported the next lunch is in March and President Cruzado will be the speaker.

Recreation and Sport Fitness Committee, Kathy reported the gym has a few roof leaks.  There is a new online registration available for intramural sports, and the new program makes it easy to print schedules as well.  A suggestion box has been installed.  Climbers have noted that the climbing wall is not adequate.

UPBAC, Kevin reported that in addition to the “windfall” tuition dollars discussion above, the Budget Reduction Management Plan, November 2009 is available on the web http://www.montana.edu/upba/budget/briefings/budgetdocs/budgetreductionmgmtplan_110309.pdf.

Other Business:
Kevin handed out a letter outlining the overall charge of Staff Senate to be included in briefing papers for Dr. Cruzado.  The letter includes membership – how many, how selected/appointed, and list of current members; issues addressed in the past – major efforts and successes; and current plans and future goals – what is being worked on now and what does the future look like.

Students are planning a blue & gold underwear run through the MSU Centennial Mall, on Friday November 20th at noon.

A motion, moved by Jeannette and seconded by Kathy, to adjourn the meeting at 11:00 a.m., was unanimously approved.

Next meeting:  Wednesday, December 9, 2009 Strand Union Building SUB #236 9:00 to 11:00 a.m.