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Archive for Sunday, November 12, 1989

UNIVERSITY WORKERS SEEK BETTER BENEFITS

November 12, 1989

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The positions adopted by the Kansas Council of Classified Employees will be compiled and presented to the Kansas Legislature during its 1990 sesson.

The cost of health care was the most heavily debated issue of the the long Saturday session, which was held in the English Room of the Kansas Union.

Some employee representatives said that because health care costs have become such a critial issue, the group should back off and ask the Legislature simply to maintain current funding levels. Others pushed for additional health care coverage.

IN ALL, ABOUT 25 representatives of classified university employees, including the presidents of the classified senates at Kansas University, Fort Hays State University and Pittsburg State University, attended the meeting. Wichita State University was the only university in the Kansas Regents system not represented.

The meeting was was chaired by Cindy Riling, president of the KU Classified Senate.

Across the state, there are about 6,000 classified employees in the university system. Classified employees comprise the support staff of a university, which includes secretaries, custodial workers, cooks, police, painters and accountants.

KU has about 1,800 classified employees.

AMONG ITEMS included in the package agreed upon Saturday was a request for a 5 percent cost-of-living pay increase together with maintenance of the current 2.5 percent pay increase for each step on the current pay schedule.

The pay schedule, called a pay matrix, provides the 2.5 percent pay increase for each year of experience a classified employee gains if the employee receives a satisfatory evaluation.

Riling said the Legislature has changed or dropped the pay matrix system in previous years, and the classified employee leaders will work to make sure it is kept in place next year.

During discussion of health care costs, Ruth Spinks, vice president of the KU Classified Senate, argued for maintaining the present system, which includes complete health care coverage for the employee for $16 a month and partial state funding of dependent coverage.

"I VIEW THIS benefit (health care) as the critical issue of the future," Spinks said. "I'm reluctant to ask much more. I envision the classified senate working to educate employees on how critical this issue is."

Other representatives argued that under the present system employees are gradually losing money as health insurance costs rise.

"We're now seeing a reduction of our paychecks," Riling said.

RoJene Broeckelman, classified senate president at Fort Hays State University, agreed that costs for classified employees health insurance continue to increase.

"Each year it goes up and up and up," she said. "We've got to stop that."

SPINKS suggested that classified employees ask the Legislature to offer them a "cafeteria plan" which would give them a choice of how to spend a set amount of money allocated by the state for benefits, whether it be for health care, for retirement or for other benefits.

But during discussion of the "cafeteria plan" proposal, Ron Schorr, a classified employee at KU, said did not want to mix two very confusing issues, retirement benefits and health care costs.

After about an hour of discussion on the health care issue, the representatives voted to ask the Legislature to fund the entire cost of health care and optical and dental coverge for a full-time state employee and to maintain the current level of funding for dependent coverage.

Currently, the state partially funds dental and optical care, so in effect, the classified employees are asking that health care coverage by the state be increased.

THE REPRESENTATIVES also voted to ask the Legislature to increase the state's contribution to the Kansas Public Employment Retirement fund from 1.4 percent of the employee's paycheck to 1.8 percent.

Classified employees presently pay 4 percent of their salary into the retirement fund.

The representatives also voted to ask the Legislature to give them a choice of retirement plans and to include an option for a plan that would have both employees and the state contributing amounts equal to 5 percent of the employee's paycheck.

This option was introduced by Jackie Scott, who represented Emporia State University at the meeting.

Scott wasn't optimistic that the Legislature would adopt the retirement benefit option, saying it has been turned down for a number of years already.

BUT SOME representatives pointed out that unclassified state staff, such as university faculty, now have such a retirement plan, although the employee portion amounts to an 8 percent contribution, with the state paying in 5 percent.

The representatives also voted to ask the Legislature to continue funding the "Comprehensive Classification and Job Rate Study" and to implement the findings. This study, which attempts to equalize pay levels for classified employees at universities across the state, was begun years ago has not yet been completed, officials said.

Family issues also came under discussion and the representatives voted to ask the Legislature to establish a policy for such things as paternal leave, and to pass legislation to help state agencies create affordable child care centers.

AFTER THE meeting Riling said she was encouraged that the proposal on child care passed unanimously. She also said that she was glad representatives are asking the state to do as much as it can to help employees with health care costs.

"I don't want employees eating the increases in cost," she said.

Riling said the date that the classified employee representatives will take the position paper to the Legislature has not yet been set.

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