Forums on civil service alternative plan for classified staff are scheduled

10:50:21 AM CDT - Thursday, December 08, 2005

By Chase Willhite

WSU's classified staff will soon have the opportunity to hear a presentation and to ask questions about a new proposal that would provide classified employees with an alternative to the state civil service system.

Three forums are currently scheduled, with more to be held in the future. The forums already scheduled will be held at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 14, in the Rhatigan Student Center Great Plains Room during a regularly scheduled Classified Senate meeting; 3:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 16, in 218 Hubbard Hall; and 8:30 a.m. Friday, Jan. 6, in 218 Hubbard Hall.

At the forums, members of the committee for university support staff will present the current proposal and also answer questions and address concerns from classified employees in attendance.

"We want to give every employee, on every shift, an opportunity to hear the presentation and an opportunity to ask questions," said Ellen Abbey, who has led the committee since it was formed in 2003. "It's very important to us that everyone has the opportunity to express their concerns and have their questions answered. That's why we'll schedule additional forums as needed."

Mike Turner, director of human resources, said supervisors are encouraged to allow classified employees to attend one of the town hall-style forums.

Under the proposal, classified staff at the university would no longer be considered state civil service employees.
During the spring 2005 legislative session, a new Kansas law was passed that allows classified employees at state universities the option of becoming university support staff instead of state civil service employees. According to the bill, a proposal could only go into effect if the affected employees vote to accept such a plan.

According to Abbey, one of the major benefits of switching to an alternative system is the fact that the university's administration, not the Legislature, would be responsible for major decisions regarding the current classified employees.

"Under the new proposal, the accountability will be right here," Abbey said. "We won't have to start from scratch each year explaining to the legislators who we are and what we're dealing with. The administration here already knows us and knows the issues."

Abbey has already heard some concerns from classified staff members, and she's hoping the forums help address the concerns. She also stressed that the proposal is a "living document," and adjustments can be made based on recommendations and input shared by employees at the forums.

WSU began studying possible proposals after watching the efforts of employees at the University of Kansas in 2003. KU's classified employees originally voted on a proposal in April 2003, but the effort ended in a split vote of 545 for and 545 against the proposal.

Since then, employees at KU have voted to move into an alternative system. KU's new plan went into effect July 1.

To find out more about the current proposal for an alternative plan to the state civil service system for WSU employees, go to http://webs.wichita.edu/?u=SUPPORTSTAFF&p=/index/.

The site includes questions and concerns the committee studying the proposal has received from employees and the committee's responses.

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