PTO proposal sparks protest at University of Missouri

Employees of the University of Missouri system oppose proposed changes to paid vacation policy, saying it will mean reduced benefits and less time off overall.

The changes would affect around 13,000 staff across the system’s four campuses and the University Hospital. System officials said the plan, which is still subject to change, aims to modernize leave policy, boost recruitment and retention and save money.

“It’s certainly a tough job market in any way, and we always want to make sure we’re an attractive option for people looking for higher education jobs,” the spokesperson said. the university, Christian Basi.

Labor Local 955, the union representing service and maintenance workers at two of the system’s campuses and the University of Missouri Hospital, said the proposal unveiled earlier this summer would mean a reduction benefits for employees, which would actually hamper recruitment and retention efforts.

The union is circulating a petition calling on the system’s board of conservatives to change course, and it held a rally Saturday at the system’s flagship campus in Columbia to make its case. Dozens attended the rally, the Columbia Missourian reported.

“From the only signatures we’ve received, people are very clear that time off is one of the few reasons they work here,” said Andrew Hutchinson, a union representative on the ground. .

Differing views on both sides are just the latest sign of strained relations between universities and employees nationwide. Petitions, rallies and other actions, including more work organization by groups seeking union representation, are increasingly employed by professional but non-teaching staff, such as graduate teaching assistants, and non-professional staff, such as canteen attendants and janitors. At Columbia University, graduate and undergraduate students went on strike last fall, which ended when employees reached a contractual agreement with the university. University of Southern Mississippi staff joined last spring in favor of a higher minimum wage, which was then increased from $10.10 to $11.25 per hour, mississippi today reported. Service workers at the University of Illinois protested last fall for higher wages.

UM system officials want to move all staff to a bank of paid time off rather than having separate buckets of vacation, personal days and sick days. An hourly employee would drop from 41 days to 31 days, although the university is proposing to add short-term disability and four weeks of parental or compassionate care leave to the policy.

The fight against the PTO changes is the latest battle in a years-long contract negotiation between Labor Local 955 and the university system. The union represents 1,100 employees systemwide and in recent years has advocated for a $15 minimum wage and against the outsourcing of 300 custodial and landscaping jobs.

Last year, the union marched a giant inflatable rat around the Columbia campus to protest the university’s stance on employee grievance procedures and union representation, Hutchinson said.

Hutchinson said employees at other universities represented by the union were more willing to defend themselves publicly.

“We are seeing people whose wages have stagnated for decades finally getting fed up with rising inflation,” he said. “People I talk to are tired of having to do two jobs. The university…was once an employer of choice, and it is no longer. And massive vacancies are pushing people to the brink.

The PTO proposal comes after years of discussion among university system administrators amid the big resignation. Colleges and universities nationwide have experienced an increase in turnover and Burnout among staff and faculty. Efforts by staff and graduate students to organize and collectively bargain are also increasing, said William A. Herbert, executive director of the National Center for the Study of Collective Bargaining in Higher Education and the Professions at Hunter College.

Herbert said the increase in labor campaigns in higher education and other industries stems from current economic conditions, including record inflation.

Basi said the PTO proposal has not been finalized and is subject to system board approval. He said employees shouldn’t make assumptions until they’ve fully reviewed the plans. The university is holding several virtual briefings on the changes ahead of the next board meeting in September and continues to review employee feedback, he said.

Details of the new package

The UM system has moderately revised its leave policies over the years, but Basi said the current proposal is one of the most comprehensive changes.

Entry-level hourly employees currently get 12 paid vacation days, four personal days and 12 sick days. The proposal would combine all leave types into a single PTO bank. Hourly employees would start with 18 PTO days with increases to three and 10 years of service. Nine paid public holidays and four winter vacation days bring the total of potential paid vacation days to 31, 10 less than the current system.

The university is also proposing to add short-term disability and four weeks of paid parental or compassionate care leave.

According to a presentation provided to the Board of Curators, the proposed plan would be in line with what other institutions of the South Eastern Conference and public institutions of the AAU are proposing.

Salaried staff members currently start with 17 vacation days, four personal days and 12 sick days and would get 23 days in their PTO bank, according to the proposal, in addition to nine public holidays and four days for vacation. of winter.

System administrators worked with AON Consulting, a financial services firm specializing in “human capital solutions,” to draft the new plan, which has been in the works since 2020.

“One of the big problems we’ve had with our current furlough scheme is that it forces employees to choose how they take their day,” Basi said, adding that the proposed plan could allow for more flexibility.

The Conservative Council considered the proposal at its June 23 meeting and is expected to vote next month. The new PTO system will not come into effect until 2024.

For Tyrone Turner, a union member and longtime carpenter at the University of Missouri at Columbia, the changes are “a bunch of malarkey.” He has worked at the university for 30 years and plans to retire in seven months, but worries about the impact of the proposed changes on his family and friends who still work for the university.

“It’s the best job I’ve ever had in my life,” he said. “But it won’t be as comfortable as in the past.”

Under the current furlough system, Turner said, he was able to attend his daughter’s track meets throughout her high school career and take a two-week family vacation to Buffalo, NY.

“I couldn’t do that if they restructured it,” he said, adding that he would be worried he’d run out of time.

Turner and other employees can currently bank unlimited sick days as well as double the number of vacation days.

The June 23 presentation did not include information on whether days could be accrued in the new plan. Officials said they would honor vacation and sick days for current employees.

“We certainly want to honor those accruals, so we’re working to make sure we do that appropriately,” Basi said.

Turner said he wanted to see the details of the plan before agreeing to any changes.

“I’m afraid to accept what they’re going to do at this point,” he said.

Turner said he heard several colleagues say they would leave if the changes went into effect.

“It caused total chaos,” he said. “You come to work here for the benefits, and now they’re taking them. You need to reconsider whether or not it is worth it for you.

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