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December 6, 1999

Chancellor Greenwood fields staff questions at brown-bag lunch

By Jennifer McNulty

In the latest session of what she promised will be an ongoing dialogue with staff, Chancellor M.R.C Greenwood fielded questions about wages, workload, and union representation during a brown-bag lunch last week.

The campus "is beginning to grow again," Greenwood told the crowd of nearly 200 people that turned out for the event in Classroom Unit 2. With that growth will come "opportunities for new staff programs and facilities we were on the verge of getting ten years ago." It will also bring change and inconvenience, she said, asking for patience and understanding as staff experience the hassles caused by campus construction and long-overdue maintenance projects.

"This university is a work in progress," said Greenwood. "It's a wonderful institution, in large part because of the devotion many of you have given it over the years."

Most of the 50-minute session was spent with Greenwood answering questions from the audience. Staff concerns ranged from working conditions and compensation to the lack of fitness programs available at the West Field House.

Responding to questions about union representation on campus, Greenwood reiterated her desire for good working relationships between union members and management and conceded that she thought it took "an absurdly long time" to get the tentative agreement recently reached for technical employees.

"I would like us to do much better than we have done in the past as far as understanding the objectives of unions and university management, which I think are often not all that different," said Greenwood, adding that both sides share an interest in creating a stable campus environment and supporting the goals of higher education.

Julia Armstrong-Zwart, assistant chancellor for human resources, noted that there are "ways to structure conversations that wouldn't cross the line," referring to constraints Greenwood faces during negotiations that prohibit her from talking with members of represented groups.

"We need to identify the common areas of concern that unite us, and I think we have to learn better how to disagree respectfully," said Armstrong-Zwart.

During the discussion, Greenwood noted that staff concerns mirror faculty concerns: compensation, child care, the cost of living in Santa Cruz, and a climate of respect within the university.

On the compensation front, several staff members said UCSC is no longer competitive in their fields.

"When I first came to work here, we were the best employer in the county, and that's no longer the case," said word-processing specialist Zoe Sodja, asserting that Cabrillo College and Santa Cruz County offer higher salaries for comparable jobs.

While salary surveys indicate that UCSC staff salaries are largely in line with those offered in northern California, in some occupational areas UCSC is above or below the market, according to compensation manager Judith Martin-Hoyt. Greenwood encouraged staff to consider their total compensation package, including health care and retirement, when making such comparisons.

"We have no interest on this campus in being unfair," she said. About 25 percent of UCSC employees received salary increases of 8 to 9 percent last year as a result of reclassifications, equity increases, or promotions through open recruitment.

While fund-raising is under way to build a new child care center on campus, the cost of housing is a problem that transcends the campus boundaries, said Greenwood.

"What are we going to do in this housing market?" she asked. "Our new faculty are moving to Salinas because they can't afford to live in Santa Cruz, and the same thing is happening to faculty at UC Berkeley and UCLA, and staff have similar problems."

Greenwood promised to explore the possibility of building housing for staff on campus, as well as more housing for faculty, and to pursue talks with the city about reserving some units of proposed new, affordable housing in town for UCSC staff. But she said it may be up to the state to take the initiative and solve the housing problem for some UC employees.

Workload discussions focused on the campus's plans to hire additional staff as the campus grows to an enrollment of 15,000 students. Armstrong-Zwart acknowledged that "until this last year, we weren't planning for more resources."

"As for staff planning, we don't do it very well," said Armstrong-Zwart. "In a lot of areas, we don't have a good tool for determining the impact of increasing student enrollments, but we'll have to develop new tools because at your desks, you feel the impact."

Executive Vice Chancellor and Campus Provost John Simpson noted that his budget process, which rewards initiative and innovation, recognizes the impact of more students on staff and faculty, but he predicted that "we'll all end up doing our jobs better and enjoying them more" despite the monumental changes that lie ahead.

Greenwood expressed a willingness to explore workstations as a possible factor contributing to the large number of workers' compensation claims filed by UCSC employees--the highest rate of claims by employees at any campus in the UC system, she noted.

"It is true that one of the things we cut back on when things got tight was furniture renewal," said Greenwood. About 40 percent of UCSC's reported injuries are repetitive stress injuries, said Lisa Rose, director of materiel management and acting director of risk management.

Responding to a question about alternative work schedules, Greenwood emphasized that such arrangements must be worked out between each individual employee and his or her supervisor. "We do try to encourage flexibility where that is possible, but it has to work for the individual and the institution," she said.

Armstrong-Zwart noted that, "We can probably do a better job of communicating to managers and supervisors that it's okay to use alternative work schedules if they work."

In a bid to promote the overall health and fitness of UCSC staff, Dan Wood, director of physical education, recreation, and sports, encouraged supervisors to support their employees' fitness efforts by approving flexible schedules that "allow for workouts as long as their jobs get done."

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