State board withdraws proposal on university civil service classification

State board withdraws proposal on university civil service classification

URBANA — A state board has withdrawn a controversial proposal that would have stripped universities of their authority to exempt some employees from the civil service system.

The merit board of the State Universities Civil Service System, which oversees the hiring of civil service employees at public universities in Illinois, voted Wednesday to pull a proposed amendment to its rules that would have put back in the agency's hands the power to decide when university hires are civil service or when they are exempt and considered academic professionals.

The move brought relief to university administrators, faculty and academic professionals who have lobbied for over a year to keep that authority. But it also sparked anger among union members, who say universities have for too long been improperly classifying some positions as academic professionals when they should be civil service and protected by collective-bargaining agreements.

"I'm more of a local control person," said Joanne Maitland, chairwoman of the merit board and a trustee at Illinois State University who supported the withdrawal of the proposal. "The university is closest to knowing what their needs are, and not all universities are the same," she said.

Withdrawing the proposal, however, "does not mean we're dropping it," said Karen Hasara, a University of Illinois trustee and a fellow merit board member. The opposing sides will need to work something out, she said, to address the issues raised by audits conducted by the state agency.

By state law, the Urbana-based State Universities Civil Service System, or SUCSS, oversees the hiring of university civil service employees. Since the late 1990s, the system started allowing universities to decide when a position is classified as civil service or exempt, in the case of some academic professional positions. SUCSS began reviewing positions at each university to ensure employees were not being classified as academic professional when they should be civil service. After several years of audits that pointed to an increased number of positions wrongly classified, particularly on the UI's Chicago campus, state legislators proposed to take the exemption authority from universities. When the proposed legislation failed, a rule change was proposed before the state last year.

"We're angry that after 15 years of talk, there has been no action to resolve the problem," said Jeff Bigelow, a regional director with American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, or AFSCME, Council 31.

"I think it's a good day for state universities. Having hiring autonomy is a good thing. It helps us remain competitive on a global basis," said Kostas Yfantis, an academic professional on the UI's Urbana campus and chair of its Council of Academic Professionals.

"We need to work together — SUCSS and the state universities. We've made a lot of good effort to do that and I'm looking forward to more collaboration in the future," Yfantis added.

University administrators said taking the exemption authority from the universities would hamper their ability to recruit and retain top employees and add delays to the hiring process.

"That's speculation," insisted Gary Fry, an ironworker at the UI and member of the civil service system's employee advisory committee. Audits have shown an erosion of civil service positions, he said. "The universities had 15 years to fix it and they failed."

Tom Morelock, executive director of SUCSS, said the exemption authority issue has been a topic on board agendas since he joined the agency in 2002.

"I don't know what to do to get a consensus," he said.

What will happen next is unclear, but merit board members urged Morelock to convene another committee or task force to work out unresolved issues.

"I think what I am hearing is a lack of understanding and a lack of trust," said James Montgomery, a UI trustee and merit board member, referring to some university confusion about the agency's audit process and the formulas used.

"There's still work to be done and we need to make a commitment to finish it," said merit board member Robert Marshall, a Northern Illinois University trustee. "Since I'm a fisherman, I'm an optimist," he added.

Comments

News-Gazette.com embraces discussion of both community and world issues. We welcome you to contribute your ideas, opinions and comments, but we ask that you avoid personal attacks, vulgarity and hate speech. We reserve the right to remove any comment at our discretion, and we will block repeat offenders' accounts. To post comments, you must first be a registered user, and your username will appear with any comment you post. Happy posting.

Login or register to post comments

moderndaycowboy wrote on January 31, 2013 at 8:01 am

Good, it's about time this was dropped! "But it also sparked anger among union members." To that, I say, b-o-o h-o-o.

Bulldogmojo wrote on January 31, 2013 at 9:01 am

We will just have to unionize the AP's since there is already a grass roots movement by the AP's to do so.

Sid Saltfork wrote on January 31, 2013 at 10:01 am

The Board of Trustees, and it's members on the Merit Board; temporarily decided the matter. Who appoints the Board of Trustees?  Who is turning his back on labor?  Who is putting the state's debt owed to the pensions systems on the backs of it's employees, and retirees?  It's Illinois politics hiding under the thin veneer of academia.  Quinn got what he wanted after academia knelt before him, and kissed his ring.  Oh, the faculty, and the wantabees will cry victory while they bumble on protecting their archaic way of life.  They hint at unionizing; but they still want their privelages.  H.R. will still rubber stamp their "applicants".  Nepotism will continue; and they will not have to put up with all those pesky civil service rules.  It is temporary.  Hurry up, and get that Ph.D. so you can teach in a private school. 

Bulldogmojo wrote on January 31, 2013 at 12:01 pm

I have no doubt that another set of upaid furloughs won't be too long in coming for the academics and AP's. Then maybe they will finally realize the University administration couldn't really care less about their positions and the AP's and academics should unionize to protect themselves.

Morris wrote on February 02, 2013 at 8:02 am

Well said Sid.  But let us not forget that this was also an attempt at power grabbing for big labor.  Corruption abounds in IL.  Big coroporate, big uinion, big government, organized crime, gangs (300,000+ members in Chicago alone) ... they are all in bed together and the ordinary citizens get to pay.

We should clean house.  Throw everyone out of office and start over.

Given some of the past statements by the likes of  Herman, Hogan and Blago how can anyone not clearly see the the mindset that exists at the top.

M.

moderndaycowboy wrote on January 31, 2013 at 10:01 pm

APs will never unionize, thankfully. There's no reason to. That "grassroots movement" has been going on since I started working there in 2000 and has gotten nowhere. Move on.

Mike wrote on February 01, 2013 at 1:02 am

EXACTLY. Why on EARTH would we give up the vacation time we get (that is better than what the unionized folks get), the freedom that we have (that is more than the two 15-minute breaks the unionized folks get), ALL so that we can pay a percentage of our check to some organized labor union that is "for us" that has administrative officials that all make $200,000+ each? "Campus administrators are WAY overpaid!!!" Look at the folks that run your union.

And this is after watching AFSMCE run around for the last two years with no contract and then essentially getting schooled by the UIUC folks for getting what amounts to a salary increase that is no better than anyone else got (although they told their members they were going to--makes me wonder if the AFSCME folks even understood what they were doing...). Did you folks get interest paid on that back pay for the last two years? 

"Oh, well if they make you civil service NOTHING WILL CHANGE."

Then WHY, exactly, are they TRYING to make all AP positions civil service ones? There is something behind all of this, and it isn't just that something is misclassified. 

Go ahead and try to unionize us. Pretty sure we're all pretty happy with the gig we've got. 

moderndaycowboy wrote on February 01, 2013 at 9:02 am

This is nothing more than a grab by the unions to boost their numbers. They're panicking because people are starting to realize that unions have outlived their usefullness. There's no longer a need for them. It cracks me up that the visiting AP's have unionized with the IEA. That just baffles me.

There's no way I would EVER give up the perks of an AP job to join a union. And quite frankly, I'm too educated to be in a union. Sorry, I know that sounds elitist, but it's true. I get rewarded fro my education by being an AP. I was able to get a 17% raise many years ago as an AP. That would never happen as a civil service employee.

Bulldogmojo wrote on February 01, 2013 at 12:02 pm

I'm not disputing what a good deal the AP's have at all except for the having furloughs forced on you when the university wants to pocket a couple of million dollars to give to administration salaries. AP's have lots of perks they should enjoy. "working from home" which I'm sure they are actually doing as they say. (Sent from my iPhone emails) At least a years notice when terminated because that is only fair to keep someone on the payroll who is on the skids, they will certainly turn in quality work during that time. Coming in around 9ish and leaving around 3ish. Actually taking up to 20 weeks in one year of vacation. (I've seen) I can't believe the private sector hasn't offered you a better deal with expectations like that. Worth every penny. 17% that's really good I'm guessing you don't work for the school of social work or at the very least you are someone's cousin. I hope the person who gave you the 17% doesn't hold bigotry against a demographic you are not in or they may have given you part of someone elses percentage who does the same "quality work" as you. Kind of where that subjectivity flourishes.

On the education remark, yes it not only sounds elitist, it actually is because civil service people can barely read like let's say ooooh mmm Registered Nurses. They don't need a degree.

moderndaycowboy wrote on February 01, 2013 at 1:02 pm

My raise had everything to do with how good of a job I was doing. It wasn't just me, it was two others who did the same job. We were very, very good at it, ask our students. We went to our admisitration, in a college notorious for paying APs low salaries, and told them we wanted more. We had evidence of what others on campus made in similar positions, as well as feedback from our students. Guess what, we got raises. Not becuase our bosses were related to us, or whatever nonsense you're swewing about bigotery. It's because we were good at our jobs and deserved it. End of story.

I know, it does sound elitist.  A nurse doesn't need a master's or even a bachelor's degree. They need an associate's degree.

I do, however, completely agree with you on the administration salaries. That's just borderline criminal. What a waste! I think universities would be better off if they did away with AP's and civil service. Just classify everyone as either Faculty or Staff. Oh, and NO unions. There is no place for them, period.

Bulldogmojo wrote on February 01, 2013 at 2:02 pm

"We went to our admisitration,[sic] in a college notorious for paying APs low salaries, and told them we wanted more. We had evidence of what others on campus made in similar positions"

So in other words you needed to unionize to get your raises. You made the case for unions.

An RN requires a bachelors, LPNs require an associates. Either way it is higher education and if you think that civil service people are uneducated that in part speaks to the efficacy of this universities so called employee advancement programs. If degrees were all it took to be considered a contribution, then how many degrees did White, Herman, Hogan and Troyer have combined? $6 million + dollars spent recycling those people and their scandals and three of them are still on the payroll. Degrees are not synonymous with contribution.

moderndaycowboy wrote on February 01, 2013 at 2:02 pm

No, we did it on our own. We didn't need a union. If we needed a union, we would have joined the afore mentioned "grassroots movement."

You're wrong. Look it up. RN's require an associates. LPN's don't even require an associates. Check it out at parkland.edu

I don't think they are uneducated. However, the testing procedures that are done for civil service jobs, not to mention the interview lists they create, sure do make it seem like they are. After going to graduate school, I certainly wouldn't take a typing test for a job, would you? Yes, it's beneath me, and it's beneath you (as I'm guessing you're pretty educated). 

Bulldogmojo wrote on February 01, 2013 at 2:02 pm

 "we did it on our own"

Merriam Webster

UNION: a confederation of independent individuals (as nations or persons) for some common purpose

If your work was so stellar and if the University had the slightest consideration for your work, you wouldn't have had to declare a unified front with your other two coworkers. They would have taken care of you before you could ask. They didn't, so you formed a union with the other two because you knew they would brush you off otherwise and once you start making too much they will be looking to hire someone cheaper.

Just because you didn't join an internationally chartered labor union doesn't mean you didn't form a union.

I do not see it or anyone who works for a living beneath me as you do, just corrupt ideologies like University administration.

 

Sid Saltfork wrote on February 01, 2013 at 4:02 pm

Bulldogmojo;  Your not going to change the minds of Mike, and cowboy.  You have read their elitist statements.  You have read their not having to answer to their use of time, or rules of employment.  The public sees the financial drain at the university.  They are starting to see where the money is wasted.  Your not going to change the minds of academic wantabees.  They see the faculty privileges, and will emulate them.  The academic wantabees have kissed the ring; and will be loyal subjects. 

The only question is who will do the work when the Civil Service is not around anymore.  The wantabees will have no one to handle the "minor things" for them.  They will have to do, Goodness Forbid, the "menial work".

moderndaycowboy wrote on February 01, 2013 at 4:02 pm

You love unions, I think they're worthless. Sid is right, you will never change my mind. We'll just agree to disagree. 

Bulldogmojo wrote on February 02, 2013 at 11:02 pm

Yes Sid you and I are all too aware that there are those who think that unions have outlived their usefullness, that the days of the Memphis sanitation workers unsafe conditions and poor wages are but a faded memory the likes of which could never occur again in our life time. That's if you don't count things like the striking mine workers who were gunned down in Johannesburg last summer. That however was another country and I'm sure with the stellar ethical history of the South African policemen's story stands up that the mine workers were probably asking for it. But alas that was a different country and that kind of set up could never happen here in the US, as long as they ignore Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin declaring to someone he thought was one of the Koch brothers on the phone that he discussed the idea of planting people to cause unrest to make it look as though the unions triggered mob violence during state protests there.

If one were to forget all that kind of stuff then yes we don't really need unions anymore in this day and age because management has our backs and always will.

I'm sure its impossible that the state of Illinois banking system will grind to a halt stopping all state payments until a Greece style Fed bailout can be arranged. Even if it did I'm sure Mike and Cowboy will be covered because the students recommended them so highly and the unions can just...mmm what is the term I'm looking for, Ummm Oh yes we can just eat cake.

No worries we will just sit quietly and wait while it all gets fixed. After all everyone knows the Teachers unions wrecked the economy not investment banks losing $10 Trillion+ dollars in American's equity on unregluated derivatives. Dang unionized trouble makers.

Sid Saltfork wrote on February 05, 2013 at 11:02 am

I am perplexed this morning.  While drinking my coffee, and reading the News Gazette; I read that the faculty is split over forming a union.  One side sees the benefits; and the other side fears losing privileges such as sabbaticals, and other archaic practices.  They worry about having to join a picket line supporting other unions; or crossing it.  They seem to want the benefits while retaining the privileges of the elite.  All of this must be perplexing for the Academic Professionals, and the other assorted wantabees also.  It does present a dilemma.  How can faculty hire a faithful protege who cannot find a job elsewhere while pretending to be a union member abiding by a contract?  No civil service interviewing for employment in the department; keeping archaic, elitist privileges; avoiding support for other unions; and crossing other unions picket lines while being a member of a collective bargaining organization is a unique dilemma.  Although, the faculty is educated enough to find a rationalization to justify their actions.  

asparagus wrote on February 05, 2013 at 7:02 pm

Damn Sid, that is quite a rant. This imagined "faithful protege" is fanciful. Your scenario is quite preposterous. Please try again.

Best,

The Woody Veg.

Sid Saltfork wrote on February 05, 2013 at 8:02 pm

Without the bother of interviewing civil service applicants, what procedure is in place to prevent it?  There is barely any oversight.  Please explain why a "faithful protege" would not be hired.  Don't bother with mention of ethics, or professionalism because we both know they do not exist.