Students to benefit from new pay system

by Nichol Nelson

Civil service workers and student employees at the University will soon be paid through a revised salary structure designed to reward high-quality work with higher rates.
New policies adopted this summer by representatives for the two groups will supplement existing across-the-board wage increases with raises for superior work. Officials for the groups said the new salary structure will not go into effect for several months.
About 3,500 civil service employees work in positions all over the University, ranging from accountants to graphic artists. Civil service employees are not faculty, and they are not unionized.
The Compensation Subcommittee of the Civil Service Committee revised the salary principles over the summer. The new guidelines include a provision that recommends the use of merit-based pay as part of civil service salaries.
The merit-based pay system is an attempt to reward civil service employees for a job well done, said Stephanie Dilworth, vice chairwoman of the CSC. Under the current system, civil service workers receive a straight percentage raise, regardless of performance.
Mary Jane Towle, chairwoman of the CSC, said the merit-based system would be used in conjunction with the standardized system already in place. She said the committee made the decision to recommend the new principles in an attempt to keep civil service workers happy.
“The across-the-board system is not beneficial,” Towle said. “It is a disincentive for some employees to stay.”
The principles will not be instituted for several months to allow time to research how merit will be judged in various departments. Blake Downes, co-chairman of the compensation subcommittee, said the principles are simply designed to serve as an outline for the new pay system.
“We’re at the beginning of a process,” he said.
A part of that process will be teaching workers about the new system. Both Towle and Dilworth stressed the importance of educating people about the advantages of the merit-based system.
There is some uncertainty about how the merit-based system will be implemented. The wide range of civil service jobs makes a standardized performance evaluation almost impossible.
“The U doesn’t have the feel of a common culture,” said Downes. “That is a big challenge to performance-based pay.”
Towle said performance will most likely be decided within individual departments in order to distribute merit-based pay.
But student employee representatives are already beyond the planning stages. By December, all student employees will work under a merit-based system similar to the proposed civil service plan.
Student employees include positions such as teaching assistants, retail clerks and groundskeepers.
Roger Forrester, co-director of the University Job Center, said the plan was adopted after doing a lot of “homework” about which pay system would work best.
Proposed by the Student Employment Committee, the pay plan for student employees will work much as the civil service committee hopes to structure theirs.
Student employees received an across-the-board 2 percent pay raise in June. In December, the performance-based plan will go into effect and supplement the standard increase with an average raise of 2.75 percent per employee.
“That doesn’t mean you have to grant every student that increase,” Forrester said. “One student might get 1 percent, one 4 percent, depending on their work performance.”
The student employees will be evaluated by their individual departments, Forrester said, adding that the goal is to approach the pay change in a decentralized manner.
“We will give the units sound compensation guidelines and they will be accountable for the results,” he said.