SAA Highlights

The SAA Highlights provide a brief overview of discussion items from monthly meetings of the Statewide Administration Assembly, and is published in each issue of the Statewide Voice as a courtesy to our employees. SAA often reviews processes and decisions still under development, so discussions at meetings may not reflect the final or official views of the University of Alaska. Consider these Highlights as informational in nature, not the final word on a subject.

March 14, 2012 meeting overview

The next SAA meeting will be Wednesday, April 11, at 10 a.m.

The Statewide Administration Assembly met March 14. The following is an overview of the meeting. 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. If you have any questions please contact SAA president Monique Musick at mmusick@alaska.edu.

The next SAA meeting will be Wednesday, April 11, at 10 a.m.

SAA President’s Report
The Statewide Annual Service Awards are underway. Nominations were submitted by the deadline of March 9. Lisa Sporleder, Linda Hall, Tina Holland, Betty Dupee, and Sharon Gramstad volunteered to be members of the Nomination Selection Committee. Monique Musick received the employee list from HR and has notified employees regarding their awards. Lisa Sporleder and Izzy Martinez volunteered to compile the Service Award booklet for the event

Submissions are still being accepted for Staff Make Students Count 2012. The deadline is March 22. After nominations are received SAA will review and rank the SW nominees. Awards are announced at the June BOR meeting and include $1,000, two Alaska Airlines vouchers and plaque. One recipient is selected from each MAU including Statewide.

Statewide Administration Assembly elections are around the corner. Elections need to be concluded one month prior to the June Annual Meeting. A timeline discussion put the nomination process starting by the end of March, with the election the first week of May.

UA’s Strategic Direction
Strategic Listening Sessions are scheduled for statewide staff on March 28 and 30. Anchorage staff’s session is scheduled for March 28 at 10 a.m. and Fairbanks staff’s session on March 30 at the same time. Video conferencing will be available in both Fairbanks and Anchorage to allow participation in either venue. SAA has a separate listening session scheduled for March 29. Everyone is encouraged to attend at least one session. Please review the questions before the session and come prepared to contribute to the conversation. If you are unable to attend a listening session you are encouraged to provide your feedback via an online survey: http://www.alaska.edu/shapingalaskasfuture/survey-3

Legislative Update
Chris Christensen provided a legislative update from Juneau. March 14 was the 58th day of legislation, with only 32 days left in the session. Chris explained the budget process. The Regents send their operating and capital budget requests to the Governor. He reviews them and makes any modifications. The Regents added 25 new programs this year to the budget in addition to the basic operating expenses. The Governor cut 23 of these programs before sending to the legislature. The House Finance Committee added 2/3 of the cut programs back into the budget. The House Finance Committee finalized the operating budget earlier in the day. It should be presented on the floor of the House later in the week.  The Senate Finance Committee will finalize the University portion of the budget the week of March 19. Chris and Michelle Rizk are working on convincing the Senate to keep the programs in the proposed budget. There have been three budget hearings in which Gamble has testified. Gamble has been well received with the legislature; they like and trust the work that he is doing for the university.

Public testimony is important. The House Finance Committee provided opportunity for testimony from across the state on the budget. Of the 131 people calling in to show support for budget requests, 28 calls were on behalf of the university. This showing of public support is one of the reasons that the House has been favorable toward the UA budget.

Policy Review
SAA has not seen the compiled changes related to the policy review. As soon as the changes are available to review, Monique will forward to the assembly.

Human Resources
Don Smith joined the SAA meeting to address Human Resource issues. President Gamble also joined the meeting.

Employee Tuition Waivers
The first issue was the employee tuition waiver. Changes that will be taking effect are:
1) the tuition waiver cannot be used by new employees until after a six-month probationary period,
2) changing the available credit hours from 12 to 15 for employees and increasing the non-credit hours from 6 to 8,
3) the waiver will not cover 500 level classes or year-long classes,
4) adding language for dual-employees (UA employed spouses) stating that employees can only be covered under the employee waiver, not as a spouse. This last change is to prevent double dipping from the waiver. President Gamble and Don Smith both spoke on the reason for these changes. It is hard to advocate for money from the legislature when the university is the only state funded employer that offers a tuition assistance program. Most forms of tuition assistance or financial aid follow Federal SAP standards.

Tobacco Policy
In response to the negative feedback and the projected cumbersome handling of the tobacco surcharge, it was proposed instead that all new employees would have to be tobacco free. Currently Alaska Airlines and Providence Hospital have this policy in place. Plan consultants projected a cost avoidance of $21 million over 15 years. Current employees would be grandfathered into the policy. All new hires would  have to answer a “household tobacco usage” question on their job application. This question will be handled as any other question on the application. There will be no tobacco testing. Concerns of recidivism and penalties for starting to smoke after being hired were voiced. Once the smoke-free policy were to go into place any “new hire” would be held to that. “Household tobacco usage” covers all members in a household that use tobacco. Don stated that this is because family members’ health costs are covered under our health policy and factors such as second-hand smoke at home affect the health of the employee. The university will continue to offer tobacco cessation programs for current employees. There were several concerns from the committee members and guests in regards to the policy and the family members being included under the “household tobacco usage” criteria. Others were worried about the ability to attract the best candidate for an open position. Recruitment can be difficult in Alaska, do we have to turn down the best candidate if they smoke? Gamble replied yes, they are more concerned about cost savings for everyone at the university than the opportunity cost of losing a person. Gamble noted that the culture is beginning to shift and fewer people are choosing to use tobacco compared to a generation ago. UA Health Plan costs have been reduced about as much as possible, what is left is to have healthier employees; thus our robust wellness program and a shift towards a smoke-free workforce. Other alternatives, such as medical travel policies and weight loss surgery support were suggested as cost-saving possibilities instead.

Health Plan Costs and Changes
A letter is forthcoming from Don covering the health care cost changes that are coming this year. The rates are going up two or three times depending on the plan you are in. UA pays 83% of the overall plan costs, while employees pay 17% through their payroll deductions. Several years ago it was decided that the split should be 80/20 for the health plan, though that has not happened. The employee share will increase to 18% in FY14, however. With last year's increase in deductibles and out-of-pocket maximum, the administration chose to hold off on increasing payroll deductions despite continuing health care inflation. Health costs are projected to continue to increase dramatically in coming years. Adding to this increase are policy changes related to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the national health care reform law, that states that the plan has to cover dependents up to age 26 and expanded the list preventive health screenings that are now all covered at 100%. Under the new law, at least two of our UA Choice options would be considered cadillac plans. All cadillac plans will incur a fine, all in an effort to incent more people to join the national plan, further adding to projected overall plan costs.

Plans are underway to phase out the 500 plan. Plan changes to allow employees to establish a Health Saving Account for medical expenses are also under discussion. Unfortunately, Premera cannot offer this program at this time. New RFPs for health plan vendors are being developed, and the ability to administer an HSA is included in the RFP wording.

Other Human Resource Issues
At a previous meeting we discussed proposed staff responsibility changes in the Human Resources office to cover position vacancies and reorganization. Don Smith stated no official staff responsibility changes will be taking place, but that cross-training within the unit is underway. This way if anyone is out for an extended period, someone in the office will be able to take care of any requests or questions.

Evaluation Form/ UA Values
President Gamble addressed the standardized evaluation form. A new evaluation form will be forthcoming. Gamble felt that the evaluation form that we reviewed last year was a cookie-cutter form. Most evaluation plans have 99.5 percent of employees maxing out the ratings within 3 years. Standard forms do not evaluate the person or the environment (i.e. bullying, being a team player, whether or not an employee was a good person) as a whole. He feels that employees need to be graded on their ethics, as well as their job performance. At this time UA has no Code of Ethics, Gamble would like to see one adopted. This 360 degree plan is not for the employee file, but for discussion between the employee and their supervisor. Governance groups will have an opportunity to review the form.

A grant request to the Rasmuson Foundation has been submitted to have the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) present classes to SW staff. CCL specializes in leadership development, leadership training and executive coaching. Gamble would like the sessions offered to all staff.

Staff Health Care Committee
Craig Mead as stepped down as the chairman from the SHCC. Melodee Monson has volunteered to take his place. Since Melodee and Craig were both members on JHCC, an alternate needs to be found to represent Staff Alliance. This will be worked out at the upcoming Staff Alliance retreat.

A presentation by Tim Adamzak, head of benefits for Alyeska, on PatientCare was well received by the committee. Alyeska employs PatientCare to advocate to health care professionals and insurance companies on behalf of their employees. Alyeska is extremely enthusiastic about their relationship with PatientCare. The cost for this service would be included in the staff benefit rate, not paid from our health plan budget.

Joint Health Care Committee
Tim Armbruster and Michelle Pope presented accounting projections on UA’s Health Care. A power point addressing these projections is available on JHCC’s website: http://www.alaska.edu/files/benefits/JHCC_HCReview2012_03_01.pdf . The cost increase to the health plans is to help cover the $3.5 million shortage from previous years and cover increased plan costs. JHCC is aware and is concerned that the premium increase will cause many employees to opt-out of the health plans.

Safety Training
Everyone should have been notified via email that safety training will be starting soon. OSHA requires that all employees are trained in safety and health aspects of their jobs. All SW employees need to be trained by Aug. 29, 2012. Each month starting in April, Risk Services will be offering classes pertaining to one subject per month. The only exception to the schedule is that ANC staff will not be taking Emergency Action Plan in August. Tina is planning a special trip to ANC at a later to cover this class. Registration for the classes opens the end of March. The question was asked if the classes were required for all employees. The answer was yes, the classes are mandated.

Budget Brownbag
The subcommittee has met and started the process of planning the event. The brownbag is slated for May.

SAA Website
The update is ongoing.

Butrovich Building Issues
Pat Ivey’s retirement bash was a success. A gift membership to the Georgeson Botanical Garden was presented to Pat. Thank you to all that contributed.

Betty Dupee announced her retirement on Apr. 30th. Betty will be sadly missed.

It seems that our requests for a meeting are being systematically ignored by Custodial Services. It has been suggested that SAA President Monique Musick write a letter to Martin Klein addressing our concerns and inviting him to a meeting to address custodial concerns.

Dory Straight relayed a comment from John Rutherford concerning the peeling laminate around the building. John stated that Facility Services is trying to adjust the moisture content in the air before gluing any laminate. Without addressing the moisture issue, the problem will still continue.

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