Questions and Answers on SB 575
The following questions have been submitted to University of North Carolina General Administration from several campuses, as was encouraged. This document will be updated as questions are received.
In general, the goal of this legislation is to allow the creation of UNC policies that are specifically geared towards a university community, for the betterment of all its members. Consolidating personnel authority for all University employees under the UNC Board of Governors (BOG) will empower our community to manage itself in the most effective and efficient way possible. The University maintains that the BOG is in the best position to develop policies concerning University affairs.
1. Will SPA employees become “at will”?
There is no intention or plan to convert current SPA employees to “at will” status.
2. If this bill (SB575) passes, does staff/staff assembly have guarantees to be included in a meaningful way in creation of any new HR system?
Yes. Since this initial proposal was sent to the General Assembly, it has been consistently communicated that UNC employees (UNC Staff Assembly and others) would be part of the development of any new system. During the April 20, 2011, meeting of the UNC Staff Assembly, President Tom Ross once again pledged that employees would have a seat at the table as a new University HR system was designed, policies were written, and new programs were developed.
3. Will current SPA employees be grandfathered to be governed under the rules under which they were hired?
Current personnel policies and procedures will stay in effect until new policies are developed and adopted by the Board of Governors. Once new policies and procedures are adopted by the Board of Governors, all university employees will be governed under one HR system.
4. Will SPA employees become EPA (subject to all EPA rules and regulations) or will there be a different delineation under the new system?
All University personnel would be exempt from most of the State Personnel Act (SPA) and placed under the authority of the Board of Governors. However, that doesn’t mean that all employees would be managed under the current “EPA” policies, which were never designed or intended to accommodate all categories of University employees. The intent is to develop a new University Personnel System that draws on a review of best practices utilized by other universities, the NC Community College System, the UNC Health Care System, and others.
5. Would the term SPA be eliminated?
The term SPA comes from “Subject to the Personnel Act,” so the term would be replaced with a new designation to recognize that all UNC employees are under the authority of the Board of Governors.
6. What protections and grievance processes will be put in place that are different or the same as currently granted under SPA status?
A new grievance policy with due process protections will be developed with input from employees. The specifics would be based on review and consideration of best practices utilized by other universities, the NC Community College System, the UNC Health Care System, and others.
7. If this bill passes as currently written, how would longevity pay change for current and future SPA employees?
There is no intention to change longevity eligibility for current employees, so long as the General Assembly provides the required funding. Longevity pay has been used by the State as an alternative way of paying more experienced employees more competitively in the labor market. The University remains committed to the idea that skilled, experienced contributors should be paid more than inexperienced employees who don’t yet contribute as much to the success of the organization.
8. Will SPA positions lose overtime and comp time as well as be exempt from the Federal Fair Labor Standards Act? How will overtime and shift differential pay be handled under the new system?
Federal law would continue to govern wage-hour policy, including overtime pay. Shift differential is a competitive pay practice that is in the University’s best interest to continue.
9. How many jobs will need to be added at GA?
General oversight and guidance are already provided by UNC General Administration, and each campus would be expected to operate within the policy guidelines provided by the Board of Governors. While General Administration would not plan to add any additional positions as a result of this change, it is unknown whether additional resources would be needed in the future.
10. Has there been any documentation or research presented to show a significant cost savings in moving university SPA employees out from under the State Personnel Commission?
No formal cost analyses have been done. This is not an initiative designed to create or cut positions. Eliminating dual reporting requirements and the staff time and training required to operate two separate personnel systems would, however, allow for more efficient use of limited resources.
11. Would EPA employees gain any new protections or benefits that they do not currently have?
Employees currently designated as EPA are already under the authority of the BOG. It is hoped that policy changes would lead to improvements for all University employees. The bottom line remains that the University must work to remain an employer of choice in order to achieve its mission.
12. Will this change the current Reduction-In-Force (RIF) policy?
The University is committed to ensuring that all campuses follow a deliberate, well-documented, and fair process in the event that reductions-in-force become necessary. RIF proposals at the campus level would remain subject to EEO and legal reviews prior to implementation. UNC would continue to comply with Office of State Budget and Management policy to ensure that severance payments were provided for current SPA employees, as permitted by law.
13. What assurances do current University SPA have that HR directors and university administration will not lobby to extend the “at will” employment status of EPA to current SPA if the bill passes?
The University couldn’t operate without our employees and we have a vested interest in maintaining and advancing UNC’s position as an employer of choice for all UNC employees—not just for faculty and other EPA employees currently under BOG authority. In order to continue as an employer of choice, the University must be responsive to employee needs.
14. Should this bill pass, will current university SPA employees immediately lose the protections of OSP’s Personnel Policies?
This proposed legislation has an effective date of January 1, 2012. Current personnel policies and procedures will stay in effect until new policies are developed and adopted by the Board of Governors. Employees will be involved in the development of those policies.
15. Why can’t a new university HR system be developed, prior to any legislation being passed, which will include current university EPA and SPA employees?
Under current law, the BOG has no blanket authority to make changes to personnel policies for SPA employees. If that authority is provided to the BOG, a process to develop new and improved policies, with employee input, will be implemented.