Annual Report 1997
STAFF ADVISORY COUNCIL
YEAR END SUMMARY FOR 1997
The Notre Dame Staff Advisory Council (SAC) was officially formed in February, 1996 after nearly six weeks of development by a planning group and is empowered by the March 15, 1995 document that references Colloquium 2000 authored by Father William Beauchamp, University Executive Vice-President. SAC is a freely elected council of non-exempt staff to represent staff concerns on various issues to University administration. Therein lies a very crucial point. The SAC is an advisory group that acts as a two-way conduit of information between staff and administration. The SAC is not, repeat not, a policy-forming group. It is extremely important that campus staff understand this distinction.
Given the above, the SAC was very busy during the year, holding twelve regularly scheduled monthly meetings and four special meetings in 1997. In addition several members of the SAC served on various ad hoc and standing committees including: grievance procedures, tuition benefits, elections, retirement/pension, pay frequency, parking, communications, women's issues, executive, and by-laws. Several of these committees often met after work or on lunch hours. We wish to thank all those SAC members who served on these committees. The input generated by their additional effort was invaluable to the various ends of each committee.
Attendance of elected representatives at regular meetings was very good during the first half of 1997 (average = 90% attendance), but dropped markedly during the latter half of the year and only averaged 71%. This was somewhat disheartening because as elected representatives, there is an inherent and important responsibility to each district that cannot be fulfilled without attending SAC meetings. On a more positive note, two individuals were present at all meetings in 1997: Larry Born and Chuck Klein. Congratulations to these two as they also provided valuable insight and lively discussion at meetings. Several other individuals only missed a single meeting (Table 1), but representatives of some districts missed 50-75% of all meetings. This is an issue that needs to be addressed for the future good of the council and the people they represent. Several issues received considerable attention by the SAC in 1997: 1) the reclassification project and ramifications thereof, 2) University grievance procedures, 3) development of a women's committee, 4) new list of topics important to staff, 5) retirement benefits, and 6) elections of representatives and/or filling of ad hoc committees.
The first regular election of SAC representatives occurred in January, 1997, for the odd numbered districts. Elections always bring an infusion of "new blood" which by many standards is good, but some disturbing facts also were observed. The apathy of staff was evident in many districts as witnessed by the lack of nominations and/or low voter turnout. In several districts where elections occurred, less than 30% of eligible staff voted. Of the fifteen districts up for elections, six had only one nomination and did not require an election. In the other nine districts where elections were held, six incumbents retained their seats. As the year progressed, seven districts replaced the SAC representative due to transfers, promotions, and/or retirements. We would like to sincerely and appreciatively thank all who served in some capacity on the SAC in 1997. It is an important position that carries a certain amount of responsibility to your peers, and requires effort above and beyond normal job requirements. Of this, you should be proud.
The reclassification project was one of the most important issues to affect Notre Dame staff in years. The SAC was continually updated on the progress of this project and provided input to Human Resources (HR) as requested throughout the project. In particular five major topics emerged as important to staff: 1) pay competitively, 2) compare with the job market, 3) recognize performance, 4) recognize service, and 5) develop a single system. HR representatives indicated that $1,000,000 of new money was split between fiscal year '96-97 and fiscal year '97-98. SAC recommended that top priority be given to raise the salary of individuals whose positions in the new classification system placed them below the minimum of their new salary range. Priority should then be placed on moving all staff towards the 110% goal of the University. Although some staff discontent with the new system was reported, the SAC felt the new system could not be entirely perfect and had to be given a chance to work. Of more concern to staff was the fear that once the new system was in place, they (staff) would be forgotten. Thus, periodic communication and evaluation of the efficacy of the new classification system was requested by SAC of Human Resources. Staff would then be apprised of the performance of the new system. Considerable concern was also expressed by staff for fair promotion/evaluation by supervisors as the new system eventually places more emphasis on merit. SAC was duly informed by and provided input to HR of new performance review forms and supervisor training to enhance performance reviews.
Early in the year, the SAC was asked by the University administration to consider formation of a women's committee to discuss and address issues women face in their jobs at Notre Dame. The SAC established an ad hoc committee to determine possible avenues of development of a women's committee. By late spring the ad hoc committee recommended development of a women's committee as an excellent opportunity to aid women staff. The purpose of the Staff Committee on Women's Issues is to be a visible and effective advocate to improve opportunities for, and support the needs of, women employed by the University of Notre Dame. The Women's Committee will serve as an ad hoc committee of the SAC for a period of time and its function will be reevaluated. It is composed of twelve members: six from SAC and six from staff-at-large. At-large members were selected by blind draw from a pool of 51 nominees campus wide and were: Bobbie McMahon, Laura Manship, Barb Williams, Diane Steele, Phyllis Shelton-Bell, and Johanna Grenert-Taff. Officers were elected in late fall. A request was made by the Women's Ad Hoc Committee to allow any SAC members that are currently serving on the committee, but who are not re-elected in January, 1998, to continue to serve on the committee in an advisory role during this formative stage.
Current grievance procedures as outlined in the Employee Staff Guidebook are quite vague. Input from campus staff indicate strong dissatisfaction with current methods of handling grievances and fear of retaliation is widespread. After considerable discussion over several months, an ad hoc committee was formed. A special meeting was called by the SAC and a revised grievance procedure was proposed and forwarded to Human Resources. Major points of the new proposed grievance procedure include:
-- establish a grievance committee, to include peers, which will provide recom- mendations and solutions to the involved parties
-- develop a "grievance form" so all proceedings are documented in writing
-- designate time limits for each step
-- the grievant be informed of progress at every step
-- the grievance committee be informed of the resolution
-- HR follow up with the grievant and assure adherence to terms of resolution.
The proposed grievance procedure is currently being reviewed by the Human Resources Planning Group (HRPG) subcommittee.
The retirement/pension subcommittee expended considerable effort to obtain data from other institutions for comparative purposes, but received minimal feedback. They therefore presented issues to HR which developed into a detailed discussion with SAC on:
-- features of the various pension plans at Notre Dame
-- retiree health insurance options
-- annual statement to employees on pension plan information
-- review of benefits summary
-- exit interviews.
SAC agreed that increased education and communication is needed campus wide to provide better information to staff regarding these issues.
A list of prioritized issues concerning staff was developed throughout 1997 and includes the following to be discussed in 1998:
- Long term disability vs. short term disability
- Sick leave (various issues)
- Continuous update of reclassification by HR
- Funeral policy
- Grievance procedure (pending)
- Educational benefit for non-exempt employees
- Life insurance for other family members
- Workers' compensation
- FMLA: update and educate staff
- Employee Staff Guidebook
A variety of other issues confronted SAC during 1997 and for details refer to the individual monthly meeting minutes on the Notre Dame web page or in the monthly staff newsletter. Items of note include:
-- request for semi-monthly paid employees to be paid bi-weekly was rejected after careful and thoughtful consideration by the University. Time and money invested to accomplish this goal could be better used in other high priority issues.
-- amended SAC by-laws to include a Communications Committee as a standing committee under Article VII, B.3
-- discussion of shift differential issues included: shift differential is only paid for hours worked and not for vacation or sick leave; shift differential is set by departmental decision and not truly by industry standards; vague wording in Employee Staff Guidebook; and the hours of 2 p.m. and 2 a.m. should be reviewed. HR liaisons are investigating and will report back.
-- a formal request was made to HR to continue providing meeting minutes. These will be reviewed by the Communications Committee before distribution. This arrangement was well received by SAC and allows all elected members to fully participate in SAC business
-- hire date vs. calendar date for benefits accrual. Some benefits are already based on date of hire: sick leave, child tuition benefit, staff recognition dinner, and retirement date. Years of service are also governed primarily by ERISA. However, vacation is still based on an arbitrary July 1 date. HR liaison did indicate that the University is committed to changing this, but will require some time (probably at least a few years) and cooperation of other departments, especially accounting and administrative information services
Future and Acknowledgments
The problems plaguing the SAC during its initial year seem to have been resolved, though some growing pains remain; but as with any child, maturity will replace them. Thus, the future of SAC appears bright as both administration and staff recognize it as the main vehicle for the voice of non-exempt staff. Increased availability and communication with staff are important future considerations for the SAC. Avenues of promotion were discussed and include: booths at the annual picnic and/or the Benefits Fair, open forums, and periodic presentations on campus. Some areas that may need to be addressed by future councils are: by-laws review, redistricting, code of conduct for SAC representatives, and/or a disciplinary procedure administered by SAC for SAC representatives.
The SAC would like to thank Scott Malpass, Dave Prentkowski, Joellen Conrardy, and Freida Donnan for taking time out of their busy schedules to provide information to SAC members. The continued support of the Department of Human Resources is greatly appreciated, and specifically, liaisons Rich Nugent, Rita Winsor, and Pam Zarazee. Their tireless efforts to aid and educate staff continue to amaze SAC, especially in times of less than hospitable environment. Further, input by HR staff: Angela Knobloch, Vivek Kumar, Sarah Misener, Wendy Mott, Roger Mullins, Denise Murphy, and Jane Richards is gratefully acknowledged.