IUN Mutual Gains Meeting shows promise

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Mutual Gains Meeting at IUN Shows Promise
by Naomi Palagi
The April 2011 meeting for Mutual Gains at IUN was a first for the campus. In attendance from CWA Local 4730 were VP Audrea Gant-Davis, member Mary Hackett, and member Naomi Palagi, as well as IUN Human Resources Director Carolyn Hartley and Vice-Chancellor Joe Pellicciotti. Items on the agenda were employee evaluations, the synchronous TIME system, and orientation/ training for new employees.
The employee evaluation form which is used on our campus is a one-size-fits-all form. One possible solution to dissatisfaction with the evaluation form was to require the job descriptions (written either as percentages or amounts of time for each duty) to be attached to every annual evaluation. It was agreed to try to come up with a solution (such as attaching job descriptions, revising the form, or other) by the end of the year 2011, to be in place for the February 2012 annual evaluation.
Another topic discussed was orientation and training for new employees, which many employees do not remember receiving at all. Ms. Hartley said that all new employees sign off on a form stating they have completed the online orientation, and she later sent us the link for that orientation. Ms. Davis brought up a suggestion by some of the members that new hires be brought in before an old hire leaves, to help with training. Ms. Hartley agreed that would be great, but said it is an issue of budget. She said it is also very helpful when employees leave behind department manuals.
The subject of synchronous TIME was then discussed. One of the issues brought up was problems with supervisor participation, particularly that at least one supervisor has told all of their workers that no more notes are allowed. Also discussed was the morale issue. Prior to synchronous time, one of the great aspects of IUN was that staff liked to be involved in things, whether it be outreach at the fair or science Olympiad events. While walking around campus on lunch breaks, etc., many staff willingly participated when asked to smile at new students and help them find their way around. Now, when staff are being watched so carefully and required to punch a clock, it no longer feels like a good thing to volunteer, but rather like we are being exploited. This is particularly important given the new chancellor’s focus on community engagement. As employees, we want to be part of things, and to feel like we are “in this together,” but it is very hard to feel that way under the current system. Ms. Hartley confirmed that the decision to go synchronous or asynchronous is a campus decision. She and Mr. Pellicciotti emphasized that this system was a decision put in place by our previous chancellor, and handed to Chancellor Lowe when he arrived.
When asked if there is any chance that synchronous TIME will be repealed, Ms. Hartley said it will not be repealed. However, she and Mr. Pellicciotti agreed that there are a lot of problems with the system at all campuses, and that there will most likely be some changes to the system, be it synchronous or asynchronous, within the next year.
Now, less than a month after the Mutual Gains meeting, we have in fact received some information on those upcoming changes. Specifically, Chancellor Lowe’s office sent an email message to bi-weekly employees on May 3, informing us that the number of notes requesting changes by supervisors and overall errors on time sheets need to be reduced, and that employees must be more diligent in punching in and out. However, the message emphasized that the most important factor with the TIME system is accuracy, so we should indeed add notes for any instances in which our time punches need changes in order to accurately reflect our work. Additionally, and most significantly, the message also informed us that, “it is planned to adopt an updated version of the TIME system during autumn 2011 that will enable synchronous users to correct missed punches on their own.” While we do not know all the details of this updated version, it certainly sounds promising, and seems to indicate that some of our hard work fighting against this overly-automated, overly-Big Brother-style system is paying off. We should not fail to let our supervisors and human resources department know of any continuing and further problems that we encounter with this system, or with the updated version when it arrives. We can certainly hope that the updated version restores some of the lost morale, in that it may indicate that the administration is once again willing to trust its full-time employees to record their own time accurately.
The chance to sit down and speak with the director of human resources and a vice-chancellor regarding union employee conditions, benefits, experiences, and thoughts is a wonderful opportunity, and I look forward to this process bringing exactly what is intended: mutual gains for the workers and for the university.