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K-State Today

January 10, 2013



Alternative Service Committee visits University of Kansas

By Alternative Service Committee

To Classified Employees and the K-State community:

On Dec. 7, 2012, the Alternative Service Committee traveled to the University of Kansas to meet with university support staff members who played a key role in bringing the university support staff option to KU.

Current members of KU's University Support Staff Senate leadership joined the discussion as well. This was a unique opportunity to ask about the transition from civil service and what that change has meant to them. During the four-hour discussion, Kansas State University Alternative Service Committee members were given the opportunity to ask about university support staff — positive and negative, foreseen and unforeseen.

Alternative Service Committee members in attendance felt it was a highly informative discussion that discredited some myths and hearsay about the university support staff option. It was interesting to have the opportunity to speak with members of the original task force, some of whom are now retired.

Alternative Service Committee discussed the challenges KU faced when they initially proposed leaving the civil service system and how university support staff has affected their campus since its implementation seven years ago. We have summarized the visit in two parts: Part I deals with compensation and related topics, and Part II deals with employment safeguards and related topics. This communication includes Part I summary.

Decision making issues that lead KU to develop the university support staff option:

  • Dennis Constance spoke of the great frustration he felt for years going to the State Capitol to make the case to legislators for better salaries for the Kansas Board of Regents civil service employees.
  • University support staff leadership felt very strongly that they stood a better chance negotiating salary decisions with KU administration than with Kansas legislators.
  • “Do you trust Kansas legislators more or your university administrators? Who would you have more influence with?” These were questions Dennis Constance indicated the move from civil service came down to for KU.
  • “The university will always experience change. However, you cannot control the change under civil service. You can, to some degree, control change under a university support staff model.” — Ola Faucher

Compensation issues
KU adopted a pay band model, reducing the number of classifications. University support staff are now moved within the pay bands to recognize increased job duties and experience level instead of reclassifying the entire position, which is a misuse of the civil service system. Many university support staff in attendance mentioned this was a significant improvement over the civil service classification model. Ola Faucher said it best, “There is no flexibility for the university in the iron-clad civil service system.” K.S.A. 76-715a clearly states, “Implementation of this section shall not cause a salary reduction or layoff of any classified employee.” To do so would be breaking Kansas law. KU currently uses a compensation model of two-thirds across the board raise for all university support staff and one-third for merit.

Longevity bonus information
KU funds all longevity bonuses for university support staff at $50 per every 10 to 25 years of service. The state of Kansas currently mandates each university inside state civil service to fund longevity at $40 per every 10 to 25 years of service. KU moved longevity bonuses to base pay for yearly increase calculation purposes; however, university support staff still receive their annual bonus as a lump sum payment on their anniversary date. If KU approves a 1 percent COLA, the base salary they use to calculate that increase includes the bonus. Currently, classified employee bonuses are not included in base pay and must be decided by the Kansas Legislature every year. Last year’s Legislature decided to reduce our bonus from $50/year to $40/year. As required by law, classification and compensation, which includes longevity, would be subject to input by affected classified employees if there were a move to university support staff.

KPERS retirement
No benefits are impacted by moving to a university support staff system, including KPERS. K.S.A. specifically states: “Those classified staff employees whose positions are converted from classified to unclassified status shall retain all health and flexible benefits and leave and retirement benefits provided to them under the state classified employee system.” KU university support staff were not given the option to move out of KPERS. All KU university support staff are still members of KPERS. To be clear, KU university support staff were not given an option to move to the Regents Mandated Retirement Plan (such as TIAA/CREF, etc.). All retirement and health benefits would remain the same and cannot be changed according to Kansas law.

University support staff vs. unclassified staff yearly contracts
This is another area with pervasive rumors and hearsay. KU university support staff members have never been issued yearly contracts. University support staff are on permanent appointments. Only KU’s unclassified staff are issued annual contracts. To be very clear, KU’s university support staff are not unclassified staff. They are recognized as unclassified staff in the state Workforce Report only because there is no other category to list them under. KU university support staff are not classified employees, so they are listed as unclassified staff for personnel reporting purposes by the Kansas Department of Administration to the Kansas Legislature. If you see wording indicating otherwise (including parts of K.S.A. 76-715a), it is not an accurate picture of KU’s university support staff appointments.

If you have any questions regarding this KU trip summary information, feel free to contact any Alternative Service Committee member:

http://www.k-state.edu/altservcomm/committee.html.

Respectfully submitted,

Alternative Service Committee