Now that the announcement has been made concerning the switch to a four day work week for state employees, read what UAGE has been doing to help you with this conversion.


TO ACCEPT FOUR DAY WORK WEEK Governor Jon Huntsman announced a dramatic change in scheduling for state employees recently.  Due to rising energy costs the Governor will implement a four day – ten hours per day work- week beginning August 4th.  Most of you reading this website already know that. What you might not know is what UAGE has done to help you!  We have had several inquiries regarding personal impacts from this change and UAGE has stepped up to help provide solutions.  Several meetings have been held with DHRM representatives.  When the announcement was made that state employees were losing two paid holidays (Veterans and Columbus days’) a variety of math variations were done resulting in a lot of upset folks.  UAGE requested, and received, an explanation on how the “new” holiday leave math will affect you.  Here is a summary of the DHRM response:

“This is how we are looking at the math.  We are not looking at holiday leave in terms of calculating it from January 2008 through December 2008.  We are looking at it in this way:

Prior to August 4, 2008, employees received a maximum of 8 hours of paid leave for each holiday designated as paid holidays for state employees.  From August 4, 2008 forward, looking at future holidays designated as paid holidays for state employees we will recognize Labor Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Day, Martin Luther King, Jr Day, Presidents Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day and Pioneer Day.  These holidays will be paid to employees at a maximum of 10 hours per holiday.  This brings us to 9 holidays paid at 10 hours each (within a one year time frame) for a total of 90 hours, instead of 11 holidays paid at 88 hours.”  ……..

“The state could not remain fiscally neutral by designating 11 holidays as paid holidays and providing 110 hours within a one year period.”

UAGE has been distressed to learn that some agencies are taking an “oh well” attitude when presenting family hardship stories.  Had the effort to switch to a 4-10’s work week been aired properly, accommodations could have been made for employees with hardship situations.  Many of those individuals have now tendered their resignations and are looking for work elsewhere.  The numbers doing so certainly can’t be helping to keep costs down if the cost of retraining the new employees is taken into consideration.

Please contact UAGE at 801-483-1200 or email us with any problems you may be having with the new schedule conversion. You might also enjoy reading what other states are doing now, using Utah as their model state.

In a time when jobs are being eliminated

In a time when jobs are being eliminated, budgets are tight and people are unemployed, UAGE thought it prudent to pass along some sage advise written by Anita Bruzzese  ‘On The Job” syndicated article printed in the Salt Lake Tribune, Sunday July 5, 2009

Performance evaluztions have often been derided by managers and employees as being unfair, dysfunctional and morale-busting.  But in this tough economy, it could just be they become more popular than ever as employers position themselves to not only get ride of “dead wood” in their employment ranks, but as a way to justify the trimming of employees numbers.

“I think we’re going to see a real blooming in corrective actions on the part of employers” says John Robinson, an employment lawyer with Fowler White Boggs in Tampa, Fla.  “Employers are in a ‘what have you done for me lately’ mood.”

That means that if you’ve been showing up late for work for 10years and no one has said anything, you may be in for a rude awakening in your next performance evaluation.  Your behavior may be cited as unacceptable and you will be placed on probation and told to improve your performance or even possibly face being fire, Robinson says.

At the same time, Robinson says workplaces may see more managers write up employees for various infractions, ranging from unmet project deadlines to not getting along with co-workers.  This is to avoid the dreaded “naked file” which is an employee’s personnel file void of any reports citing unacceptable behavior – something needed if a company wants to let an employee go and not face future legal action for an unfair dismissal.

“If you don’t write it down, it just becomes the employers word against the employee’s” Robinson says.  “But performance evaluations and reviews can be used as ammo against people.”

Write Back.  If there has been a misunderstanding, then write your side of the issue and have it submitted to your manager and put it in your personnel file.

Move Forward.  “Don’t get into a ‘he said, she said’, kind of thing.” Robinson says. “Outline your action plan and show how you’re going to rise above it and move on.  Outline how you see your future at the company and what you’ll contribute.”

Be Specific.  Make sure that you point out your skills, training and any certifications as a positive counterpoint to any negative comments made by your manager concerning your performance in a review.

Robinson also warns workers to be cautious if the boss wants to do a review   “out of cycle” – before the usual evaluation time.  “It’s usually not good news when that happens,” he says.

Robert Hruzek, a project manager for a large global engineering firm in Houston, says that he remembers early in his career when he made mistakes that came back to haunt him during a performance evaluation.  Looking back on the experience, he says he was “embarrassed and ashamed” when he received the negative comments from his boss.

“Work started at 7 a.m. but I thought it started at 8 a.m. so I would come meandering in about that time,” Hruzek says.  “I was not very well prepared.

After being offered a token pay raise based on what he now calls his “ridiculous amount” of tardiness, Hruzek decided to stick it out and try to improve his performance.

“On reflection, I could see that the boss was right about me.  I could have given up and gotten another job.  Instead, I decided to stick it out and start showing up on time.”

Still, Hruzek says that times are much tougher now and he agrees with Robinson that employees who have bad habits such as tardiness or absenteeism night not be given another chance.

Notes Robinson: “In this environment, companies are looking for the key players that can give them a winning team.  The others may be more expendable.”

UAGE Note:    Although the foregoing article may read like it doesn’t apply to you, think again.   Private industry standards are being infiltrated into the public sector all the time.   It doesn’t seem to matter, though, how different each is, private to public.  What matters is that you keep your job and do the best at that job you can.  When the you give your best performance and you feel singled out or set up, call UAGE.  We’ll help you through a bad performance eval.

Retirement Under Attack

The following editorial was printed on the Salt Lake Tribune’s Editorial Page, Wednesday, July 16, 2009.

This just in from the Misery Loves Company Department.  Utah’s pension system for government employees is the latest outfit whose investment losses have toppled it into the news.  Legislators are looking for ways to shore up the system’s assets so they can meet liabilities.  Initially, they need to fine $148 million.

Welcome to the club.

Individual investors have watched their IRA and 401K account balances plunge with the Dow.  The state retirement systems are in the same sinking boat.  Assets are estimated at $15.3 billion, about $3 billion short of the amount that actuaries estimate will be necessary to meet all obligations.

There are basically two ways to deal with the shortfall; increase contributions to the fund, either through state appropriations or employees payments, or reduce benefits.  Benefits can be trimmed by raising the retirement age or reducing payments to retirees.  Legislators say they will do everything possible to meet their commitments to existing retirees.

Finding an additional $148 million in state coffers probably will be impossible, what with state revenues continuing to decline due to the recession.  The federal stimulus package saved Utah’s bacon last budget cycle, but it likely that more painful budget cuts lie ahead.  State budget planners could face grim choices between laying off teachers and fully funding their pensions.

Utah traditionally has provided state and local government employees, including teachers, a defined benefit based on a formula which accounts for years of service and average salary.  The employer has funded the entire plan.

This contrasts with a defined contribution plan, such as a 401(K) in which an employee has an individual account to which both she and the employer contribute.  The employee decides how to invest the money and there are no guaranteed benefits.  This shifts the investment risk from employer to employee.

In the private sector, an employer may terminate a defined benefit or a defined contribution plan, but may not reduce the benefit an employee already has accrued in the plan.  The rules for plans covering government employees are different, but we would assume the state would honor its commitments to current retirees, and only alter the plan going for ward for current workers.

A couple of years ago, legislation proposed a transition to a defined contribution plan, the direction most businesses have moved, but lawmakers kept the status quo.  That may no longer be affordable.

UAGE Note:  Public employees in Utah do not make the same amount of money people working in the private sector do – and for doing the same job.  The “deal” made when the two systems were created was enhanced benefits for the trade of lower salaries.  If the Legislature wants to reduce the benefit, then it seems to UAGE they have to raise your salaries, or your retirement account will not sustain you throughout your later years.  If ‘no guarantees’ becomes the deal, then why not organize a stronger union to help you deliver a louder “NO” reaction to this message.  Get on board with the UAGE fight to prevent a change to your retirement system.

Retirement Qualifications

UAGE members have been asking what they must have to qualify for retirement as a public employee in Utah. The following is from the Utah Retirement Systems website for non-sworn employees;

Retirement Qualifications

You currently qualify for a monthly retirement benefit if you are:

—65 with 4 years of service.

—62 with 10 years of service.

—60 with 20 years of service.

—Any age with 30 years of service.

If you have fewer than 30 years of service

from any combination of Utah Retirement

Systems, retiring before age 65 reduces your

monthly benefit 3% for each year between ages

60 and 65.

Utah Retirement Systems

Utah Retirement Systems (URS) reports a loss in investment income.

The Utah Retirement Systems reports a loss in investment income this past week. Along with other investment funds, the URS investment accounts has experienced a loss that impacts the overall investment accounts that funds the retirement programs for public employees in the State of Utah.

UAGE Executive Director,  Jan Johnson, has been in discussion with the Director of the URS, Mr. Robert Newman, over the impact this will have for public employees and the retirement system as a whole. Many discussions are being held at various legislative levels, State levels, and other entities that have input into the total process that makes up the URS and the funding mechanisms. UAGE has members involved in this process and will keep it’s overall membership informed as more information is developed.

UAGE members need to remember that the URS is still a strong entity, recognized nationally, and respected for it’s practices in dealing with the investment accounts that fund the URS. Now is not the time to panic but to keep informed and calm as those who are charged with managing and influencing the URS work hard for the public employees of Utah.

If you have specific questions or concerns, feel free to contact Jan Johnson by telephone or email.

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