Reform in the housekeeping department is underway, but administrators said they are moving slower than expected, with an eye on quality rather than speed.
Dick Mann, vice chancellor for finance and administration, said it is important to give critical issues the time they need.
STORY SO FAR: Housekeeping Changes
At a meeting of the Employee Forum, University housekeepers protest a new policy that bans sitting down on the job. Complaints began in July 2010 after eight employees received disciplinary action for resting on the job.
University policy is changed to include bullying and intimidation as grounds for employees to submit a complaint. An increase in the number of complaints submitted to UNC’s human resources department followed the policy change.
UNC hires PRM Consulting Firm to examine complaints about workers’ rights being ignored by management and sexual assault allegations within the department.
Housekeeper Amanda Hulon appeals a University ruling on a sexual harassment complaint she filed against her supervisor.
Housekeepers present Chancellor Holden Thorp with a petition requesting the reassignment of Tonya Sell, the assistant director of Housekeeping Services.
A report compiled by PRM Consulting Group, charged with examining the culture of UNC’s Housekeeping Services, outlines more than 45 recommendations for change. The results prompt an announcement from Chancellor Holden Thorp of immediate actions the University will take to address the report’s findings. Administrators say it is critically important to move quickly.
“It’s going OK, and I’d love to see it go faster, but it doesn’t make sense to jam something in if people don’t feel they are involved,” he said.
Administrators said in October that they would move quickly to accomplish points of reform. But a few key projects have yet to see major progress in the two months since the University released its report on housekeeping reform.
These projects include the formation of an advisory committee, a management training program and better communication between employees.
Brenda Malone, vice chancellor for human resources, said steps are being taken, but some necessary parts of the process are inevitably taking more time.
“I’m not sure there’s ever an end date for reaching a climate of cultural stability,” Malone said.
“In essence, we’re meeting our target, but these are ongoing things,” she said.
One initiative that only recently kicked off was the formation of an advisory committee, which aims to provide representation of housekeepers to management.
“We want to engage the advisory committee to help us with initiatives we think could be enhanced with input from employees,” Malone said.
Members of the housekeeping department will vote on nominees this week, Malone said.
James Holman, a housekeeper and employee forum delegate, said he is pleased with progress and has seen slight change.
But he said he is worried about the permanence of the initiatives.
“I am concerned about things going back to the way they were before,” he said.
“We have to see what comes out of this advisory committee, which hasn’t started meeting yet.”
Another initiative is the supervisory development program, a University-wide initiative that will start in the housekeeping department, Malone said.
The program centers on training for appropriate management techniques.
Malone said having employees that speak different languages — namely Spanish, Karen and Burmese — is an ongoing challenge.
“We want to make sure we are sensitive to it and address it appropriately,” she said.
“Sometimes it makes things take a little longer, because there are not a lot of folks in our community who can provide translation services.”
The search for a new housekeeping director has also begun, and a search committee has been formed, Malone said.
Mann, who leaves office Dec. 1, said the reform faces deeper challenges than checking items off a list.
“Getting people more comfortable is going to take some time, because people have to believe things are changing, and that is something that takes time,” Mann said.
“Really change the environment — that’s what we want to do.”
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