U revises P&A salary policy

Professional and administrative employees’ comments prompted a revision of the policy.

by Danielle Nordine

The University of Minnesota Office of Human Resources revised a policy that would allow the University to impose furloughs or pay cuts on its more than 5,000 academic professional and administrative (P&A) employees. In reaction to the more than 300 comments employees made on the policy within the first 10 days of its posting online, multiple aspects of the policy have been revised, OHR Chief of Staff Joe Kelly said. P&A employees at the University range from assistant professors and researchers to program directors and coaches. P&A employees include any employee who is not a tenured or tenure-track faculty member or a civil service or unionized employee. The proposed policy originally stated that the University could reduce P&A salaries, impose unpaid furloughs, postpone compensation or âÄútake other actions as determined by the University in its sole discretionâÄù in situations of financial stringency. The policy was proposed to allow the University to impose a 1.15 percent salary decrease for P&A and faculty employees, which was approved March 25 by the faculty senate âÄî a fact that wasnâÄôt clear when the original policy was posted, Kelly said. On April 21, OHR posted the revisions, stating that the provision allowing the University to âÄútake other actionsâÄù âÄî the part of the policy that was most controversial âÄî would be removed. âÄúGetting rid of that provision really reduces the scariness,âÄù said Sarah Waldemar, chairwoman of the Council of Academic Professionals and Administrators. âÄúIt was so wide open and people felt like it was an open door to do whatever sort of action may come to mind.âÄù Other employee groups, such as faculty or civil service employees, already have salary reduction provisions built into their contracts in cases of financial stringency, but this was not the case for P&A employees, Kelly said. âÄúThis seemed to be targeting P&As when in fact it was just meant to bring us in line with the rest of the employee groups,âÄù Waldemar said. The original policy also stated that any changes made to P&A contracts under the policy must have a defined timeframe of less than two years. Also, the University had to tell employees about the changes in advance and in âÄúa timely fashion,âÄù a phrase OHR said it will also spell out more clearly in the final version of the policy. Many P&A employees were concerned by the policy due to their already precarious employment situation. âÄúP&As mostly work on annual contracts that can be nonrenewed for any or no reason, which puts us in a particularly vulnerable position already,âÄù said Randy Croce, a P&A employee with the Carlson School of Management Labor Education Service. The policy will remain open for comment until May 12 because of the requirement that all major changes to University policy are open for review and comment for 30 days. Kelly said OHR will continue to read all comments and make additional changes as needed. Some employees are still concerned about the vagueness of the policy, especially during an uncertain financial situation and the switch to a new administration in 2011, Croce said. Kelly said the policy didnâÄôt specifically name the 1.15 percent decrease so it could be used in future situations if necessary. âÄúI donâÄôt think weâÄôre any more at risk than we were before,âÄù Waldemar said. âÄúThat perception might be out there, but I donâÄôt think we are.âÄù