SAA Highlights

August 10 meeting overview

The Statewide Administration Assembly held its second meeting of the fiscal year on Aug. 10. The next SAA meeting will be 10 a.m., Wednesday, Sept. 14 in the Sherman Carter conference room. All meetings are open to the public, and statewide workers are encouraged to contact their governance group to address workplace concerns, policies and other matters affecting Statewide staff.

Introduction of New Executives
Carla Beam, vice president of university relations, Chris Christensen, director of government relations and Don Smith, director of labor and employee relations, were all introduced to the group.

  • Carla Beam comes to the University of Alaska after a brief retirement from BP. She has been a member of the University of Alaska Foundation Board of Trustees for the past seven years, most recently serving as the chairman.
  • Chris Christensen was hired by Wendy Redman to be the liaison to the state legislature. Chris has 28 years of experience working with the legislature.
  • Don Smith recently came to the university from the Alaska Railroad where he worked in labor relations; before that he was with AT&T.

All three are excited to join the university and look forward to helping shape its future.

Longevity and Outstanding Employee Awards
The longevity and outstanding employee awards ceremony are set for Aug. 18. Ice cream, fruit, coffee and other catering was ordered for Fairbanks and Anchorage. The awards from Atta Boy were picked up and mailed down to Anchorage and other locations as needed. President Gamble will speak and assisti with the distribution of awards. The award committee successfully chose the outstanding employee recipients. It was agreed that all nominees would be notified following the award ceremony.

Employee Tuition Waiver Update

Discussion revolved around Beth Behner’s memo to staff May 3 regarding considered changes to the employee education benefit, known as the employee tuition waiver.  For dependents, eligibility for the waiver would be determined according to the University of Alaska Student Financial Aid Satisfactory Academic Progress Statement. There was some confusion regarding satisfactory completion of a course. The memo states that an incomplete (I grade) indicates unsatisfactory completion of courses for financial aid purposes and could cause a suspension in using the waiver in the future. A later statement says that an incomplete course will not be considered complete until official confirmation has been received in the financial aid office of a passing grade. This seems to be a contradiction. Will an incomplete lead to waiver suspension or not? The point is to be addressed at a future meeting by Saichi Oba.

Staff Emeritus
President Gamble approved a change to University Regulations to clarify procedures for granting Staff Emeritus Aug. 2. Staff has always been granted emeritus status, but now the regulations will address emeritus status within the Staff Chapter of Regent’s policy.

Web-based timesheets
In preparation for web-based timesheet entry, eligibility rules and regulations for out-of-class and holiday pay are undergoing revisions. Out-of-class pay will cover an entire pay period and holiday pay will require being in a paid status during the same time period, not necessarily the day before. HR offices statewide are in early stages of drafting policies for telework arrangements. Select departments across the MAUs are testing the web-based timesheets.

Benefits Updates

In benefits news, initial data from changes in pharmacy plans and increased use of generics shows a positive effect on health plan costs. Every 1 percent change from brand-name to generic drugs has resulted in $200,000 savings. We are up to a 4 percent change, which is higher than the national average. Unfortunately, a large number of large claims have had an unanticipated negative impact on our healthcare program. Higher than anticipated enrollment in the High Deductible Health Plan should help lower plan costs. Health care costs overall however are rising and will continue to rise. Our best hope for controlling plan costs is successful engagement in wellness programs and avoidance of costly lifestyle-based claims. The deadline for creation of Health Savings Accounts options is unknown. Our current claims processing vendor, Premera, is not currently able to provide the real-time account access necessary to implement HSA plans.

SAA Website
Interface changes to the SAA website will have to wait until the Governance sites are transferred to the Roxen system and off the in-house servers. In the future the website will be modified to make issue tracking and communications easier. There will be regular use of pre- and post-meeting announcements to better inform staff of governance actions.

Building Issues
Rita Murphy, temporary building manager, has a list of items to bring to facilities attention including garbage collection concerns, bathroom tissue quality, stained/leaking ceiling tiles, dirty tiles near ventilation fans, and the growing gnat problem in the Butrovich. Additional concerns should be brought to her attention. Sign holders have arrived for posting of printed material. President Gamble has requested that no more posters get taped to walls or windows. The sign holders are located by each downstairs entry and outside HR. Keys are also available from Public Affairs for posting on the locked bulletin boards.

The Bragaw Office Building has many new occupants and Erica Kurowski wondered if it would be appropriate to add an Anchorage alternate to SAA. That will be reviewed prior to the next election; in the meantime, it was brought up that any SAA member can appoint a proxy for filling their duties at any meeting they are unable to attend.

Fire Alarm Review
Tina Holland was able to share some information on the Aug. 9 fire alarm. Although the cause is still under investigation, it was from a smoke detector and not a pull detector. In general the evacuation went well. A few building floor managers were unavailable and others stepped up to fill the role despite not having received training. Training for accountability procedures is forthcoming. That will clarify who to report to during a drill or emergency. Employees are asked to not go to their private vehicles during an evacuation. That choice could very well put someone else’s life in danger, if during an actual fire, a fire fighter was sent looking for you because you were not accounted for. Also, when leaving the office at any time, be sure to check in with an office mate or supervisor so your whereabouts can be accounted for in the case of an evacuation. Please train the way you need to respond during an actual emergency.

Holiday Projects
Get your party hats on! Holiday potluck dates have been set for Nov. 18 and Dec. 16, both are Fridays. Monique Musick will be the contact for Love Inc./Adopt-A-Family, Lisa Sporleder will be the food drive/mug drive coordinator, and Erica Kurowski will set up the food drive in Anchorage.


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