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Monday, April 23, 2012

Staff Council - April 2012 Highlights

Staff Health Care Committee discussed how effective a Patient Care addition may be to the current compensation package, where it would be, and who would pay for it.  Clinics on campus are being re-looked at and Chancellor Rogers believes it can be done.  There is currently no tobacco policy in place.  Chancellor Rogers wants the tobacco surcharge on new hires beginning July 1, 2012.  Committee members were tasked to reach out to individuals who use tobacco products to gather suggestions/incentives/comments on how to encourage users to quit.

President Gamble agreed to establish a Healthcare Task Force.  This would be a one-time task force.  The task force will not replace the Joint Health Care Committee or the Staff Health Care Committee, it will look outside the box, consider options, review and research plans.  The goal of the committee is to have proposals in by the end of August for proposed changes to take place and decided upon in December 2012.  The committee will have equal number of staff, faculty and administration.

Chancellor Rogers commented on how the current legislative session went great and the University came out ahead.  Their focus will be on some long standing issues such as the sewer lines and moving some parking lots.  Funds have been provided for advising, new programs, honors programs, 50% of staff raises, repairs to the engineering building, etc.  The voices heard the loudest were those not directly associated with the University.  He visited the Northwest campus and Chukchi campus in support of those partnerships.  He mentioned that it is important to attend any of the Staff Appreciation events this year and if a supervisor tell you no, you need to refer that issue to his office.

To-date there have been 160 signatures collected on the Health Care petition created by the Staff Affairs committee.  The signed copies of the petition have been submitted to UAF Staff Council President, Pips Veazey, to forward to Staff Alliance and Chancellor Rogers.  Signatures are still being collected.  There have been staff who have voiced a concern about signing the petition because of repercussions they may face from the administration.  For those who are concerned about repercussions they have been encouraged to visit the blogsite and place a comment anonymously.

A survey was conducted regarding the Code of Conduct sent out by President Gamble to all staff.  To-date there have been over 640 comments/responses submitted.  As of today the code of conduct has been unofficially withdrawn with a comment that President Gamble will work with governance in creating Institutional Values.

Chancellors Cornerstone Award – there were 91 nominations.  The committee reviewed all nominations and submitted four staff members to Chancellor Rogers for a decisions, along with recommendations for increasing the award prizes.  Committee felt the award for the Chancellors Cornerstone was deficit in comparison to other awards.

A system governance retreat will be held in June 2012 those in attendance will include President Gamble, Donald Smith, etc.

There are no changes to the University’s tuition waiver at this time, Standard Academic Progress (SAP) is the holdup.  Staff Affairs is beginning to work on a document that will be geared toward staff.

Thank you to all those who provided their notes to be included in this blogsite.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Health Care Petition - Comments

We, as the employees of the University of Alaska Fairbanks, want to express our concern that staff are not feeling valued. Health care costs are increasing at an alarming rate, longevity and loyalty do not appear to be rewarded by the administration, and current compensation packages make it challenging to sustain a family.

The healthcare increases implemented for FY 13 will be detrimental to the University’s efforts to recruit and retain staff. We request that the University system seek to mitigate these costs for FY 14 to prevent a competitive disadvantage among peer institutions and other state agencies. We furthermore ask to see additional choices developed to preserve our current PPO options, and incorporate Health Savings Accounts, Supplemental Insurance options, HMO options, and innovative solutions to broaden choice and potentially reduce costs.

To sign this petition either see your UAF Staff Council representative or see Mary Sue Dates at 110 Eielson Bldg.  For rural sites please email your comments to

Staff Council - March 27 Highlights

Michelle Bartlett – Summer Sessionsa. In-state tuition for everyone
b. Students who take at least 6 credits can receive assistance in finding a job
c. 14 credits for the cost of 10 credits – grades must be a C or better
d. 28% discount on dorms
e. Tuition awards of 3 credits – grades must be a C or better

Mae Marsh – New EEO Director
a. Advocate for the process
b. Ensure UAF is in state and federal compliance
c. Goal is early resolution
d. Staff Council mentioned that UAF has no defined grievance process, only as mentioned in the Board of Regents regulations and policies.

Health Care
a. The cost was an administration decision and not the Joint Health Care Committee (JHCC). Melanie Arthur (JHCC representative) explained that the proposals by JHCC were pushed aside for the administration choice. In December 2011 the JHCC passed an action item to explore clinic access for UAF. Donald Smith, Executive Director – Labor & Employee Relations, UA Statewide, was contacted in March for an update. At the time of contact there had been no action taken.
b. Vendor contracts (Blue Cross, Premera, Caremark, VSP, etc.) are up for review and renewal. Once signed they are 5 year contracts.
c. Council requested the Staff Alliance (staff governance for all of the University of Alaska) form a task force to investigate a wide range of issues from how benefits and premiums are projected and calculated, if the various health care services are being effectively used [WIN for Alaska, disease management, Best Doctors, etc.]), making the policy makers aware that the current health care model and direction is broken, options for systemic changes that can bring health care coverage back in line.
d. President Gamble sent a letter to the legislature regarding a “cost avoidance of 7 million dollars” for the university. This “cost avoidance” moved 7 million dollars from the university shoulders to staff.
e. In July staff can expect a pay deduction due to the rising cost of health care.
f. There is talk about the 500 and 750 plan going away and being replaced with the High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP) with a possible Health Savings Account (HAS). To date there are 197 staff on the 500 plan, 2517 staff on the 750 plan and 1377 staff on the HDHP. The maximum allowed in the flexible spending account has decreased to $2500, federal guidelines.
g. It was recognized that nothing can be done to change the implementation of health care premiums this year. It was widely expressed that we are on a continuing unsustainable path.

Tobacco Policy
a. The proposed “tobacco-free hiring policy” has evolved from the previous “tobacco surcharge.” After speaking with UA Statewide Human Resources, the tobacco-free hiring has not been instituted, however if President Gamble approves of this policy it will go into effect in UAKJobs beginning July 2012. Staff governance has not been provided with any information regarding this policy.
b. It does not seem like President Gamble is giving up on this even as we doubt the large amount of touted health care savings ($21 million over 5 – 10 years).

General Notes
a. Staff Council, at the prompting of Chancellor Rogers, is looking at reorganizing to a smaller group to be elected at large (instead of by unit) with the hope that they can achieve greater attendance (move from 37 unit to 17 at-large). There is the sense that some unit representatives don’t communicate well or at all with their constituents, so this proposal is intended to broaden the communication.
b. Tuition Waiver – Staff council rejected the changes to the tuition waiver based on insufficient time for review. The changes were received on March 23rd by the Staff Alliance. Staff Council did not receive these changes until March 27th. One of the changes states: “Employees and dependents receiving education benefits must maintain Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) in order to qualify for educations benefits.

Thank you to other representatives for your notes and comments from the staff council meeting.  Providing those items allows this blog to be as inclusive of topics and conversations as possible.

Staff Affairs - April 2 Meeting

Health Care:
It was agreed there is need to be more options.  The committee discussed the option of Higher Dedcutible Health Plan (HDHP) with a Health Savings Account (HSA).  To have the health savings account the pharmacy  plan would need to be re-worked.  It is not clear to us, as we have not had the time to do much research, this would be a great option of UAF staff.  The health savings account allows you to make withdrawals outside of medical expenses and the amount in the HSA rolls over every year; neither of these are an option with the flexible spending account.

The committee agreed to create a petition for staff to sign expressing our concerns about health care and how staff feels devalued in the lack of fight for them by the administration.  It is agreed the petition would not be electronic as it is important to get actual signatures.  The petition will also provide represented staff and faculty to sign showing support of the unrepresented staff.  Once the petition has been approved by the UAF Staff Council President, it will be sent out to all staff council representatives to staff signatures.

As signatures are gathered completed pages will be provided to the UAF Staff Council President and Vice President with a request to provide copies of the signed petition to the Joint Health Care Committee, President Gamble, Chancellor Rogers, the Board of Regents, etc.

Tuition Waiver:
Discussion about the possible changes to the tuition waiver recognize the increase in benefits with the increase in possible credit hours taken each semester and each academic year.  However, concerns were voiced about capping credit hours and that the waiver would fall under the Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) for students.  The committee agreed to revew the proposed changes and SAP, then come back to the next meeting (April 16) to discuss a written outline such as SAP.  The outline would be reflective of staff using the tuition waiver.

Tobacco Policy:
The committee is in favor of a Tobacco Free Campus and not a Tobacco Free Hiring Policy.  It was stated UAKJobs has already instituted the Tobacco Free Hiring with a question asking if the applicant or any depedent living in the household uses tobacco.  Before going further in action to draw up a motion, it was decided a member of the committee would contact UAF Human Resources to verify the UAKJobs information.  See Staff Council Notes regarding this issue.