Resolution urges UT to clarify layoff policy

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Staff Council passed a resolution on Thursday calling for Human Resource Services to provide comprehensive, easy-to-access information about the layoff process in response to repeated complaints of anxiety and confusion. As UT slashes budgets and departments continue to lay off employees, staff feel helpless against the sea change, council representatives said. The resolution requests that UT’s Human Resource Services provide an online look at the steps departments have to follow to lay off an employee, an outline of benefits they can receive and information about how losing one’s job can influence an employee’s retirement plan. Erika Frahm, chairwoman of the job security ad hoc committee, said when staff members feel there is information not being made available to them or that they cannot find, confusion can lead to stress and anxiety. Both the layoff process and the job evaluation process can create stress for workers, she said. “We felt that if people understood what information is there, then that would let them be more proactive and they wouldn’t feel powerless,” Frahm said. Human Resource Services is on board with the resolution and will get started right away, said Julien Carter, associate vice president for the department. “We very much appreciate their advice and viewpoint of things they want to see highlighted on our website, so we’ll make it a priority to implement their suggestions,” Carter said. The job security ad hoc committee aims to pass two more initiatives — one to create a guidebook for employees who get laid off and another to write a set of recommendations for UT President William Powers Jr. in regard to staff management. The committee is working faster than most, trying to get resolutions passed by early spring. From September 2009 to June 2010, UT laid off 273 employees because of budgetary constraints, according to human resources data. With a possible 10-percent budget cut affecting the 2012-13 biennium and an additional 2- to 3-percent cut going into effect this biennium, the University will have to lay off hundreds of employees in the next few years. At Thursday’s meeting, the council also requested HRS provide online information about the performance evaluation process, including a simplified version of the evaluation policy, how to obtain evaluation records and how to contest discrepancies and guidelines for productive dialogue between employees and managers. All the information should be available in both English and Spanish, according to the request. Communication is essential in times of crisis, and the council’s efforts only bolster communication, said Staff Council Chairman Ben Bond. “Even for people who aren’t affected by layoffs, having the information helps prepare them, because it could happen,” Bond said. “Plus, odds are they know people who are being laid off. It helps them understand what they’re going through.” Anxiety among UT staff members is the council’s first priority, and the resolution will aid staff members if they do not fully understand the processes or have faith that department heads are cutting for the benefit of the entire University, said Jennifer McClain, a staff council member and senior administrative associate in the Division of Housing and Food Service. “Being able to outline how the procedure works will not only let people know that it is being looked at, but that we’re actually considering as many options as possible,” McClain said. “We’re not going to change the fact that the budget is a problem and that we don’t have enough money, but at least people won’t be so fearful.”