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Forum Allows Employees Chance to Air Concerns Regarding Benefit Changes

By Jody Record, Campus Journal Editor
February 16, 2011

Employees packed the Granite State Room Wednesday morning for the chance to ask questions about the pending cuts to benefits for staff and nonunion faculty. Reductions in retirement contributions will go into effect July 1. Medical changes will take place as of Jan.1, 2012.

The USNH board of trustees is set to vote Thursday on the recommendations that will reduce non-unionized employee benefits by more than $8 million annually system wide. USNH Trustee John Small was on hand Wednesday to discuss the proposed changes and field questions from the audience.

Key to the conversation was the news that adjustments to retirement—previously presented as a tiered plan based on age—will be decided by the administrative board of the USNH Board of Trustees after receiving input from employee councils. Councils will gather feedback from staff on how they prefer to have the medical changes structured as well.

President Mark Huddleston began the discussion by saying he recognized employees felt they hadn’t been consulted; that they hadn’t been treated fairly and that they didn’t understand the recommendations that are on the docket.  

Small went on to clarify those recommendations after explaining that trustees had based them on a study and the results of a recent survey of USNH nonunionized employees.

Questions from the audience sought clarification on USNH’s move to a self-insured medical plan; how retirement reductions could be made up; how the medical plan design changes might be made; and the possibility of an a la carte benefit program. Several employees spoke to the issue of the gap between staff and faculty benefits, and the desire for equity.

“I can tell you the board of trustees is acutely aware of this issue,” Small said. “Can I promise you an outcome? No.”

Huddleston also addressed the point, saying he has repeatedly expressed his opinion to the trustees that UNH remain “an employee of choice.”

To the question of why trustees can’t put off the vote, Small said a delay would likely mean losing the projected savings for 2012, and possibly beyond.

The System Personnel Policy Committee (SPPC), to whom employee councils forward their recommendations, is slated to meet Friday. OS Council chair Monique Couillard suggested the SPPC convene more frequently between now and May, when a retirement plan would need to be agreed upon to go into effect July 1.

Information about the SPPC can be found here http://www.usnh.edu/hr/sppc.html.

Links to the Total Rewards program report and recommendations can be found at:  http://www.usnh.edu/hr/total_rewards.html 

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