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K-State Today

January 17, 2013

Alternative Service Committee visits University of Kansas, Part II

Submitted by Alternative Service Committee

To Classified Employees and the K-State community:

This communication concludes the summary of the Alternative Service Committee’s visit to the University of Kansas with Part II, employment safeguards and other topics. Both, Part I and Part II are available on the Alternative Service Committee’s website at http://www.k-state.edu/altservcomm.


Disciplinary Action Board replaced the Civil Service Board
KU was required to develop an appeal board to replace the State Civil Service Board to hear cases involving disciplinary actions of suspension, demotion or dismissal involving any university support staff, or USS. K-State would need to do the same and would keep the highly-respected Peer Review Committee, which KU does not have.

This was not brought up in the meeting, but we feel it is important information to share. In any given fiscal year, more than 95 percent of disciplinary action cases are handled by the Peer Review Committee at K-State. Only a very small number of cases are forwarded to the State Civil Service Board for review — the last case was in April 2011. Of those cases, the State Civil Service Board usually affirms Peer Review Committee’s decision. It is a common misconception that the State Civil Service Board protects K-State’s classified employees. That perceived protection is actually provided by K-State’s Peer Review Committee. State Civil Service Board quarterly reports can be found at http://da.ks.gov/ps/subject/arc/memos/default.htm.

Collective bargaining organizations (aka unions) at KU
K.S.A. 76-715a mandates, “Nothing in this act shall affect the representation rights of collective bargaining organizations that represent the employees of a state institution of higher education, nor shall the provisions of this act affect any term or condition of any collective bargaining agreement in effect on the effective date of this act.” University support staff cannot change established memorandum of agreements with collective bargaining organizations, or CBO.

Reorganization issues at KU NOT due to USS option
A lot of rumors circulated that many people were laid off at KU after it adopted the university support staff system. KU panel members confirmed the rumors were 100 percent false. Reorganization did occur, but it was the result of implementing recommendations of an outside consultant firm, not due to university support staff. In fact, KU had undergone a significant re-organization in its Housing and Dining Division when KU was still under the civil service system. Reorganization can happen under either system. Ola Faucher, KU director of human resources, said, “Being a classified (civil service) employee will not help you if your agency decides it is necessary to reorganize or lay off employees.”

Kansas Board of Regents enhanced leave option
KU is not currently eligible for the Kansas Board of Regents enhanced leave program for vacation leave accrual. When the enhanced leave program was originally approved, it only applied to classified employees. KU adopted the university support staff system before the KBOR enhanced leave program was approved. KBOR’s legal opinion was it excluded KU’s university support staff due to the timing and wording of the legislation. There was some discussion that the legislation may have been amended to include KU’s university support staff. KU is asking regents to revisit that issue.  

Update: Alternative Service Committee asked K-State’s administration to request an opinion from the Kansas Board of Regents on this topic. It was reported by Cindy Bontrager, interim vice president for administration and finance, at the Jan. 9 Alternative Service Committee meeting that KU Med Center classified employees recently approved the university support staff option. She confirmed with KBOR’s Office of General Counsel that the new KU Med Center University Support Staff employees kept the enhanced leave benefit. KBOR is checking statute information to see if they can offer the enhanced leave program for all other KU University Support Staff. If K-State were to approve the University Support Staff option by majority vote, we would be doing so after K-State had implemented the KBOR enhanced leave program; therefore, K-State university support staff employees would earn the same amount of vacation leave as they currently do.

University Support Staff work group for implementation
Once KU voted to move to university support staff, a work group was established to create  a new policies and procedures handbook. The work group membership includes university support staff and KU administration. For years, the work group was a university committee that was independent from their university Support Staff Senate (similar to K-State’s Classified Senate). It was recently moved to the university Support Staff Senate. Some in attendance thought that move was a mistake and could weaken the work group’s influence with KU administration.

Administrative-level decision making at KU
Compensation issues are determined (and funded) directly by KU. The Kansas Legislature no longer has a say on how KU financially compensates its university support staff.

Furlough program
When furloughs were being discussed after the financial crisis of 2008, KU university support staff provided input into a furlough plan that gives their highest paid employees a greater proportion of any financial impact from a furlough than those making lower salaries.

Kansas Board of Regents university support staff handbook requirement
After they received a majority vote in support of university support staff, they were required to submit a university support staff handbook to the regents for final approval. The handbook contained more details than the initial white papers they voted on. It was developed by a work group of university support staff and key KU administration.

Town hall meeting opportunities
KU had numerous town hall meetings to inform and seek feedback from their classified employees. Feedback was used to revise their white papers (aka proposals). These meetings were quite spirited with emotional comments from employees on both sides of the issue.

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