For couple, new HR plan is family decision

Come the end of the year, UVA staff employees who have worked there since June 2006 are going to have to make a decision that will affect their futures at the University. For at least two of them, it will be a family affair.

Staff Union at UVA (SUUVA) members Michael and Jolene Kidd have both worked at UVA for over 10 years, and both face the decision all long-time staffers are facing—whether to switch to the new University human resource plan or stay state employees in the current Classified plan. The new University HR plan comes out of the 2005 Management Agreement that gave UVA autonomy from the Commonwealth’s HR system. All UVA staff hired after July 2006 will automatically be switched to the new University HR plan on January 1.

Michael Kidd has worked at UVA for over 10 years. Now he and his wife, Jolene, face a tough decision about whether to switch to UVA’s new human resources plan.
Previous coverage:
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Officials ease back curtain on HR plan

Staff question new HR plan
"Town hall" marks unveiling of University system

Staff concerned about trust, pay
Still waiting for glimpse at new HR system

From the ground up
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Employees like the Kidds, who were hired before July 2006, have a choice of joining the new system or staying put. Come October 1, all employees will see a side-by-side comparison of both plans that the Management Agreement requires UVA to provide. But with the University’s plan still being hammered out, the Kidds find themselves feeling the way that they claim many employees feel: unsure about the plan.

“There’s the general undertone of ‘It’s going to be worse,’” says Jolene. “And I don’t know why people feel like it’s going to be worse. I think it’s just because we don’t have anything to go on to indicate it’s going to be better.”

SUUVA has opposed the two- tier working system that it argues the new HR plan will create by introducing the new University plan while other employees stay on the current Classified plan. Under a two-tiered system, staff members working side by side could potentially receive different leave time and salary increases. There is little doubt that discrepancies like this would cause friction between employees.

“It’s going to be really frustrating,” says Michael, “and I’m not sure how the University is going to deal with that.”

Of the two Kidds, Jolene is the more optimistic about the potential benefits of the new system. Under the new plan, she would count the new employee evaluation and annual-leave bank as potential benefits. But both she and Michael are skeptical of one of the University plan’s much-touted aspects.

Because the University plan will be autonomous from Virginia, it won’t be restricted by the state’s pay bands. UVA officials have used the promise of market-rate pay as a big selling point in convincing employees to switch plans.

But Michael says that unlike Academic and Professional faculty, whose salaries are based on the national market, staff salaries will be based on the local market of Charlottesville and its surrounding counties. If rural and lower-income counties like Buckingham, Greene and Fluvanna are included, say Michael and Jolene, they will drive down the market value of salaries.

Michael says his salary looks pretty good when compared to those in the outlying counties. “Now, if you compare me to what someone at Harvard makes who does what I do, you’re in for a big shocker.” UVA has yet to clarify how it will define the market for staff salaries.

Both Kidds say that they’re going to wait to see the side-by-side details of the two plans before they decide whether to jump over to the new University system.

Jolene has volunteered to be a peer advisor, someone who helps other employees make their decisions. Both have good things to say about Susan Carkeek, vice president and UVA’s chief human resources officer. Still, the two union members retain a certain amount of skeptism.

“I think if you stay classified staff, it’s going to become increasingly more complicated to be that way,” says Jolene. “And it will encourage people to become University staff whether they want to or not.”

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