University of Wisconsin-Madison unveils plan for sweeping overhaul of personnel policies

2012-09-22T08:45:00Z 2012-09-22T09:48:01Z University of Wisconsin-Madison unveils plan for sweeping overhaul of personnel policiesDAN SIMMONS | Wisconsin State Journal | dsimmons@madison.com | 608-252-6136 madison.com

Performance-based pay bumps for faculty and academic staff. A loss of some protections in case you're laid off. A guarantee all employees would be paid a living wage.

Those are some provisions in a sweeping overhaul proposed for how UW-Madison's 20,000 employees are classified, recruited, paid and evaluated. The plan, developed from a series of campus-wide meetings during the last nine months, was released Friday by university officials and could take effect next July, pending approval by the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents and the state Legislature.

"We really tried extremely hard to ensure that the plan represented all the views of our campus community," said Robert Lavigna, director of UW-Madison's Office of Human Resources.

University officials plan to host four public forums and two web chats about the plan in coming weeks before taking the plan to the Board of Regents in November or December.

Although UW-Madison workers would remain on state pension and health insurance programs as state employees, the plan would fold them into a single UW-Madison human-resources system with as-yet-undetermined job titles and compensation structures. The department would develop an online recruiting site that would be a central stop for applicants to apply and track their applications.

University officials sought the opportunity to create a new pay and classification system, and Gov. Scott Walker gave it to them in the current two-year budget. The UW System is doing a separate revamp.

Under revised hiring and compensation rules, UW-Madison workers at the bottom end — except student workers — likely would see a significant pay bump because the university would abide by the living-wage standard, which will increase to $12.19 an hour in Madison next January. Currently a starting custodian at UW-Madison earns $11.28 an hour.

For everyone else, it's less clear how the changes would impact pay and benefits, although the university said base wages will not decrease for any employee.

The plan would allow hiring managers latitude to base starting pay on a "market-based compensation system," adjusting their offers to compete with other employers locally, regionally or nationally. The university already uses the system in hiring faculty but would expand it to other positions.

"We'll use the market to inform pay levels in a way that will make us more competitive," Lavigna said. "The expectation is not that the market will drive wages down."

Two tiers?

However, a union spokesman said he fears the change will lead to a two-tier system of employees, especially in lower skill jobs: those hired before the changes took effect and those hired after, who could be lower paid if the market rate dictated it.

"It really creates pay disparities within employee groups and within the university as a whole," said David Ahrens, a recently retired researcher who is the spokesman for the Wisconsin University Union, which represents faculty and academic staff.

It also would give more managers authority to base pay raises at least partly on performance. While some university employees already are under the merit-pay system, the new plan would extend it to faculty and academic staff, Lavigna said. The change would require Legislative approval, which UW-Madison and other UW System schools will seek.

Layoff changes

The plan also would bring controversial changes in dealing with layoffs.

Gone would be the mandatory right of reassignment to another job within the university for laid-off workers, currently guaranteed for university "classified" staff but not for academic staff. The laid-off workers would be guaranteed the right to interview and be considered for openings in other departments but hiring managers wouldn't be required to hire them.

Also gone: the current "last hired, first fired" provision for university staffers. If required to do layoffs, management no longer would have to consider only seniority.

"It would still be a primary factor, but not the only factor," Lavigna said.

The plan also contains significant provisions for improving university hiring and development of employees from diverse backgrounds as well as expanding training and development opportunities for workers and managers.

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(14) Comments

  1. WI_Expat
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    WI_Expat - September 23, 2012 3:17 am
    Thinking that the university should just have a single wage for all....that would be the socialist thing to do.
  2. Shorety
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    Shorety - September 22, 2012 6:21 pm
    RE: In the end, the trick is to pay attention to the wording of the ads. If they are written in a very highly specific manner, there is usually a candidate in mind.

    Thanks for that info -- nice post.
  3. Prairie75
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    Prairie75 - September 22, 2012 5:27 pm
    "For everyone else, it's less clear how the changes would impact pay and benefits, although the university said base wages will not decrease for any employee."

    Three things matter: pay, benefits and job security. This "plan" is silent on 67% of what matters. It is not a plan; it's an essay.
  4. Wis_taxpayer
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    Wis_taxpayer - September 22, 2012 3:14 pm
    Notice there are no regular righties posting.... oh yeah, it's the weekend and Karl only pays them to work weekdays!
  5. Norwood44
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    Norwood44 - September 22, 2012 3:14 pm
    Nav. Please. Are you suggesting that the state hire non union teachers and state workers? Quite a bold statement from you. I agree with you by the way.
  6. dmark
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    dmark - September 22, 2012 3:06 pm
    Unions were important when robber barons were abusing fourteen year old coal miners.

    Unions are more important than ever. It is no coincidence that the decline of the middle class in this country dates to the time of Saint Ronnie of the Deficit's reign of terror on public and private unions.
  7. Nav
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    Nav - September 22, 2012 2:39 pm
    Norwood, not all workers can be above average in anything. I am sure wherever you work, there are also average workers, and it is not illegal to be one.

    As far as below average workers is concerned, those who hired them in the FIRST place must take the responsiblity. If employers did a better job of hiring the best workers, provided for a longer probationary period so as to weed out poor workers, there would be nothing left for the Unions to protect? Right?

    Unions get an unfair bum rap. They have a legal obligation (yes legal) o protect ALL of its members equally. Yes, sometimes it may be that they are protecting poor workers but as I said they have to give equal protection to all members. Again, if the employers did their job and hired the best workers, this would not be a problem, Norwood!
  8. Thurston Howell III
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    Thurston Howell III - September 22, 2012 1:29 pm
    Yeah, right. I'm sure this entire thing was all about promoting "what is good for the HR office". Right. Sure.
  9. Norwood44
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    Norwood44 - September 22, 2012 12:47 pm
    Nav. Unions protect average and below average performers. Unions do not inspire innovation or overachievers. Unions are an impediment to best practices. Witness the companies of the new economy...Apple, Microsoft, Epic. Any great institution should think long and hard before letting unions affect major policy and personnel decisions. Unions were important when robber barons were abusing fourteen year old coal miners. But within current public and private institutions that depend on a sense of enterprise and ambition,unions are a source of economic injustice, not justice, for citizens and our society. How sad that it took a Republican to take the most progressive step our state has taken in fifty years. A sad indication of just how far the Dems have fallen. But once you sell your soul, you can never go back.
  10. midwestguy
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    midwestguy - September 22, 2012 12:34 pm
    The "two tier" approach sounds like it was taken directly out of the private sector's corporate playbook. If the University is going to attempt to mimic the "outside world" in terms of "headhunting" and salary criterion, they should have just become a private enterprise.
  11. 53703
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    53703 - September 22, 2012 11:46 am
    I've argued with them about this, too. It's also pretty frustrating when you are the one posting the job. I don't like knowing that someone is possibly spending time on their resume and cover letter for a job they have no chance to get. I think it's unfair.

    The reason they do this is that federal funding to universities has a requirement of open recruiting. To get around this, you have to demonstrate "sole source" for a position, essentially that a person is uniquely qualified for the job and that it would be nearly impossible to find someone comparable. They can be a bit inflexible about it.

    In the end, the trick is to pay attention to the wording of the ads. If they are written in a very highly specific manner, there is usually a candidate in mind. If you wonder whether this is the case, you should just contact the person doing the hiring before you spend a lot of time tailoring your resume for the job. Unfortunately, we have no choice but to jump through a lot of administrative hoops with hiring, but believe me, nobody wants you to waste your time when they have a candidate in mind, and it's upsetting to us also that there's no good way around us. It's another case of laws that were made with good intentions but have bad unintended consequences.
  12. Shorety
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    Shorety - September 22, 2012 11:35 am
    Also, I wish the university wouldn't post jobs that they really have an inside candidate for that they are really going to hire. At least they should warn people that a strong inside candidate exists. It's a waste of time to post those jobs for them and for the people applying.
  13. Nav
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    Nav - September 22, 2012 10:44 am
    UW's plan do seem a little pre-mature when ACT 10 is being STRONGLY challenged in three different law suits. This is the problem when Boards let their HR departments recommend a policy. The HR departments are not exactly "objectivee" entities as they have had to deal with unions as adverseries and, therefore, have an anit union attitude to begin with.

    Public boards with foresignt would assemble a more objective team to give them recommendations about how to procedd before coming up with drastically different proposals. The apprauch should be based on what is good for the institution as a whole, not what is good for the HR office.
  14. Reply
    Report Abuse
    Reply - September 22, 2012 8:44 am
    Before anyone jumps to unfounded conclusions, I suggest commentors first read the whole proposal:
    http://hrdesign.wisc.edu/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/120921HR_strategic_plaN1.pdf

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