Operating Staff Council Meeting – Sept 9, 2004
Members in attendance: Stephanie Higgs, Jennifer Dube, Patrice MacNevin, Jim Layne, Gerri Sanders, Charlene Hill, Mark Ernst, Lori Parent, Jason Brodeur, Doreen Palmer
Guests: Lori Wright-Campus Journal, Allan Braun- Facilities, Candace Corvey- Finance & Admin, and Linda Leavitt, Dave Capalbo, and Jim Malo- Facilities employees
Next regular meeting: MONDAY, October 4th, 8:30-10:30am, Board of Trustees Room, T-Hall
Facilities Reorganization Update:
Allan Braun and Candace Corvey were present to provide an update on the reorganization/privatization of Facility’s operations.
Candace opened by remarking that the promise to achieve this reorganization through employee attrition is being upheld, and that no employees have lost their jobs as a result. She acknowledged that reassignments have occurred and that these changes prove difficult for some employees. She also acknowledged that communication breakdowns had occurred and apologized for those. She stated that a plan has been put in place to keep this from happening in the future.
Allan then provided an update on the status of the reorg by first providing some of the history of it. He stated that 2.5 years ago found Facilities in a bad position financially. Facilities is an “RCM” operation, responsible for its own bottom-line. With the goal of creating reserves to help endure the fluctuations in costs (primarily heating and other operational costs), Facilities looked at several different options, privatization being one. When selected as the option to take, it was decided that it would only be done in a manner which protected employees from job loss by using a plan that allowed for privatization of positions only through attrition. Because of this, the process is much slower than a one-time outsourcing initiative that would have resulted in job loss. As a result, shifts in assignment are necessary as remaining employees are moved to different buildings as buildings become “privatized.” Allan noted that the combination of the process being slow and continued rising costs have continued to put a lot of financial pressure on Facilities. Facilities services are paid for out of the customer departments’ budgets and therefore it is difficult to raise the cost of those services since many departments are struggling financially also. Candace added, in response to a Council Rep’s comment about the effectiveness of the RCM model, that a 5-year review of the pros and cons of the RCM model will begin, as scheduled, this Fall.
Allan stated that an RFP (request for proposal) will soon be sent out to vendors for the transition services of Housekeeping. The selected vendor will take over these responsibilities in July ’05.
Allan added that the zone management concept implemented in Maintenance has proven to be very well received by customers and has also been successful financially. He stated that the transition to this model took a very short time.
Regarding communication to affected staff, Allan stated that he has met with “99%” of all staff, in groups of 10-12, over the past year. He stated that he continues to be regularly asked if staff will be laid off and that he continues to reiterate the promise to achieve this reorganization through attrition. Allan stated that he is going to reinitiate this Fall the quarterly meetings that used to be held (to be announced in the Campus Journal) and will consider a newsletter as a forum to keep staff updated. He stated that his only hesitation re the newsletter was the burden it would put on staff to create it. If created, it was suggested that it could be linked to from the OS Council website. In addition, consideration will be given to the idea of having a central person (Susan Bradley of HR?) serve as the point of contact for employees who have questions/concerns.
Candace provided the bigger budgetary picture by stating that the overall UNH budget deficit was $700,000 and that this year’s budget was balanced only by using reserves. Reasons for the deficit include a poor economy which has resulted in increased demands for financial aid for students, continued low state funding, dramatic increases in utilities costs, and dramatic increases in fringe benefits costs with our insurance carriers. She stated that re the state funding, the Board of Trustees are attempting to push for a significant increase for the next fiscal cycle. She stated that UNH is attempting to keep tuition costs “reasonable” in the meantime. The “good news” stated Candace is the increase in research grants which not only fund the research itself but also help pay that particular college’s bills. Also, donations to UNH are strong.
In response to a Council Rep’s question about cost savings thus far as a result of the privatization, Allan stated that Facilities has achieved $1.75 million in cost cuts over the past 2 years. He also stated that Facilities will be re-doing the zones this year which will continue staff movement, “the pot continues to stir.” In response to a Council Rep’s question about specific efforts to improve communication, Allan informed the group of Michelle Hayes’s role of directly addressing communication issues. He stated that the initial goal was to “get us there,” and that now attention needs to be focused on addressing the inherent problems of this, especially communication- both internal and external.
In response to a Council’s Rep’s concern about the staff’s uncertainty about where they’ll be working and who they’ll be working for day-to-day, Allan stated that the “list” for buildings to be privatized in ’05 is being formulated, however he added the caveat that this ultimately is driven by employee attrition and is therefore subject to change. Candace added that their hope is to get this plan out to affected employees so last minute switches can be minimized.
In response to another Rep’s concern about employees having more of a “say” in decision-making and asking how much money has been saved in Housekeeping thus far, Allan stated that he had met with one of his managers recently and requested that this manager meet with his staff to get input on upcoming issues/changes, and that $200,00o to $250,000 will be saved in Housekeeping in ’05. The Council Rep confirmed that this meeting had taken place, however the presentation of the request may have been different than Allan intended.
Candace stated that when decisions are made about saving costs, there is a desire to choose the “lesser of all available bad situations.” As a result, the back areas on campus are the ones not as actively maintained. She added that, though open to input from Grounds and Roads re other ideas on cost cuts, they may have “wrung that [approach] dry” and there aren’t any more cuts to make in this way.
The meeting ended with the hope that the above steps will go a long way toward improving the communication to and morale of Facilities employees. Employees are encouraged to contact their Council Reps with any questions or concerns.
For more information about the Council, please visit: http://www.unh.edu/os-council/.