The Daily Tar Heel

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Tuesday January 31st

Employee Forum discusses concerns about new adverse weather policy

CORRECTION: Due to a reporting error, the original version of this story misrepresented a delegate at the employee forum. Gena Carter, senior director for employee and management relations, spoke at the forum. The story has been updated to reflect these changes.

The implementation of the new Adverse Weather and Emergency Event Policy was a main topic of discussion at the Employee Forum meeting on Wednesday.

The updated policy was used for the first time on Jan. 21 with the implementation of condition one, or reduced operations, as a winter storm reached the area. The University went into condition two, or suspended operations, on Jan. 22.

Gena Carter, senior director for employee and management relations, said she was happy with the decisions that were made. Administrators decided to suspend University operations for Jan. 22 the night before, which, Carter said, showed good judgment.

“I think all in all what we’ve done so far relative to communicating the policy…and just the decision-making around determining the right decision based on the weather, I think it fared relatively well,” she said.

Delegates at the meeting expressed their gratitude for the timely warning of the closing of the University, but many expressed concern about their ability to make up the hours that they missed during the storm.

This is because the new policy states that, under condition 2, an employee must take leave without pay if the employee does not have any compensatory or bonus time. The University might offer make-up time, but it has to be fulfilled 90 days after the missed day.

Carter said that she wants to encourage managers to think proactively about what work can be done at home in the case of future closures, to avoid employees having to take leave without pay or having to miss time at work.

But employees who do not have jobs that allow them to work from home are worried about how they can make up the time if they already work 40 hours a week — something that would push them into overtime.

“There are just some jobs that are conducive to working at home, some that are not. If there is flexibility, we encourage the manager to engage in that flexibility,” said Linc Butler, associate vice chancellor for human resources.

Krista Prince, coordinator for leadership development in the Department of Housing and Residential Education and a delegate at the meeting, expressed her concern about the disparity between workers who have the ability to work from home and those who do not.

“I hope we advocate for some reconsiderations around the policy. It’s very unfair and inequitable, and I just wanted to vocalize that,” she said at the meeting.

Carter said she is hearing concerns about the new policy from employees, but not much can be done about it right now.

Health care changes

Another topic of concern were the newly proposed changes to health care plans for state employees. Carter said the changes could eliminate the 80/20 plan, which covers the full cost of some preventative care and medicines, or health care for spouses.

Carter said she only learned about the proposed changes on Tuesday.

“We are going to fight tooth and nail as hard as we can in hopes that the state health plan will listen and those benefits won’t be discontinued,” she said.

Student Stores

With regard to the Request for Proposals for the potential privatization of Student Stores that was discussed in previous meetings, Clare Counihan, program coordinator for faculty and staff at the Carolina Women’s Center, said the personnel issues committee recommends that the Forum create a general position on privatization — including a position if a decision to outsource is made.

If a decision to privatize is made, Counihan said in an email that the committee recommends that the Forum focus on protecting existing employees.

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