Statement by Richard R. Spies, Vice President for Finance and Administration
Over the past few months, the University has carefully considered the issues that have been raised by the Workers' Rights Organizing Committee. I appreciate the work that members of the committee have done in focusing attention on these issues. As I have said on other occasions, staff members in many different kinds of jobs make essential contributions to the work and quality of life of this university and allow it to be in operation 24 hours a day, seven days a week, every day of the year pursuing its missions of teaching, research and service to others. We value and respect all of these contributions and the people who make them.
Today we are announcing two steps that begin to address issues that have been raised with respect to casual workers and the wage levels of our lower-paid staff.
Casual workers play an important role by filling in for permanent employees who are off for disability or other leaves, or by working for relatively short time periods on one-time projects or during periods of unusual needs. As we have investigated the current situation, however, we have found that in recent years we have hired more casual workers than we believe is appropriate. This increase has occurred in part because of the opening of the Frist Campus Center and in part because of a dramatic decline in student employment. We have found that many casual workers are working full-time schedules, and some have worked here for a number of years.
We believe that any staff member hired to work for a semester (five months) or longer with a duty-time of 50% or more should be hired either for a specified term or, when appropriate, as a regular employee on continuing appointment. All employees hired for a specified term or on continuing appointment are eligible for full benefits if they work at least half-time for five months or more. Benefits include health care coverage, disability coverage, unemployment insurance, life insurance, and (subject to normal vesting rules) pension benefits and children's tuition assistance. Adhering to this policy would have the effect of converting a significant number of current casual workers to positions that use the regular salary scale and provide full benefits.
While taking this step would not eliminate the need for casual workers, it would limit the use of casual workers to appropriate circumstances. In Dining Services, for example, we believe that following such a policy would reduce the number of full-time casual workers in the residential colleges and Frist from its current level of 35 to much less than 10.
Because many casual workers are included in the collective bargaining units of our unionized staffs, the appropriate next step is to discuss with the unions this goal of shifting more casual workers to benefits-eligible positions. In this context, we also would propose that the wage rates of casual workers should be increased to a level closer to the wage rates of regular employees. Our hope is to begin these discussions with the unions as soon as possible.
Although the University carefully reviews its compensation program each year, we believe that, in light of recent discussions, there should be a thorough re-examination of this program at this time, including the wage levels of the University's lower-paid staffs. These include employees on the bi-weekly A and bi-weekly B payrolls. This review should consider our compensation program in the context of the University's overall budget (which needs to remain in balance), the relevant markets (including our competitiveness in attracting and retaining staff), and the ability of our workers to meet their basic needs.
We are asking the Priorities Committee to conduct this review. The Priorities Committee is the group to which we traditionally look for guidance on matters related to the University's budget and priorities, including recommendations on the size of each year's salary pool and its distribution among different categories of faculty and staff. As many in our community will know, the Priorities Committee is composed of six faculty members, four undergraduates, two graduate students, one member of another group represented on the Council of the Princeton University Community, and three members of the administration ex officio, including the Provost who chairs the committee. We are asking the Priorities Committee to make at least initial recommendations by the end of April.
I am attaching to this statement a summary version of our earlier responses to the list of issues identified by the Workers' Rights Organizing Committee. Anyone interested in a fuller version of our response can find it at www.princeton.edu/pr/reports/WROC/WROCdraft.htm. Some of these issues, such as policies regarding casual workers or wage levels for lower-paid staff, are addressed by this statement. On the issue of outsourcing of custodial services, the summary correctly notes that Princeton has no plans to extend its current very limited use. The other issues that have been raised, such as those related to performance review and shift differentials for unionized staffs, are most appropriately addressed in the collective bargaining process, as they have been in the past. We do recognize our obligation to be sure that performance reviews are conducted in a fair and appropriate manner; to provide necessary training; and to correct problems when they occur.