President Huddleston Attends OS Council Meeting

President Huddleston Attends OS Council Meeting

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Operating Staff Council began the new year with a visit from President Mark Huddleston who makes a point of attending employee council meetings annually. 

At the Jan. 8 meeting, Huddleston responded to questions from representatives related to advancement opportunities, online courses, access to the Hamel Recreation fitness center and the future of higher education. 

In talking about opportunities for OS workers to move to PAT status, Huddleston noted it is in the university’s interest as well as employees for staff to advance, and that there are procedures in place to follow when positions become available for which employees are qualified. 

According to Kathy Neils, HR’s chief human resources officer, in the calendar year 2013, 22 OS employees moved into PAT positions; 12 of those were open positions and 10 were reclassifications. 

Regarding online courses, of particular interest to OS staffers because their schedules often do not allow them to attend classes on campus, the president said that it would be helpful to know what courses employees would like to see offered. 

“We’ve been proceeding cautiously; it’s pretty expensive to develop a course,” Huddleston said of elearning. 

While staff members can’t workout for free at the Hamel Rec Center (the facility is funded through student fees) benefits-eligible employees can use their Harvard Pilgrim gym benefit there.

And, all UNH employees can use the Employee Fitness Center in the Field House for free. 

As to the future of higher education, Huddleston said cost remains the greatest challenge. 

“We cannot keep doing what we’ve been doing,” he said, referring to the higher education structure, while adding he is optimistic about UNH’s future. 

In other news, Neils and Amy Schwartz provided an overview of health care costs and benefits for USNH employees, specifically to address the $10 million savings in health care USNH experienced in 2013.  Council representatives had asked why part of the savings was not passed on to employees. 

According to Schwartz, the savings were primarily a result of USNH switching to a self-insured health plan.  That change allowed the system to reduce administrative costs and negotiate discounts with insurance and prescription providers.

An estimated $300,000 was saved systemwide through employees’ use of Tandem Care, the healthcare shopping service that aids employees in making healthcare choices. 

USNH spends $63 million annually on health care benefits.