WUU: “Proposed UW compensation plan may result in greater inequities in pay and a bigger bureaucracy.”

The following press release was received by S&W from the Wisconsin University Union.  Reader comments are encouraged.

For Immediate Release: May 1, 2012
For More Information Contact: David Ahrens: 334 1156/ Steve Bauman: 849-4847

Proposed UW Compensation Plan May Result in Greater Inequities in Pay and a Bigger Bureaucracy

Wisconsin University Union (WUU), an advocacy organization for UW-Madison faculty and academic staff, expressed serious concerns about the Human Resource Design Project’s (HRDP) recommendations for a new compensation system released last week. “The recommendations are based on undefined methods, could lead to substantial reductions in salaries and also require a new bureaucracy to administer”, said WUU spokesperson David Ahrens.

The HRDP was instituted in response to the Walker administration controversial Act 10, which both eliminated collective bargaining right for UW employees and removed them from state civil service protections. The recommendations apply to all campus employees: faculty, administrative, academic, and technical staff.

Breaking with past UW-Madison practice, and common practice in most large organizations, the HRDP does not endorse regular “cost of living adjustments” to counteract inflation. It instead recommends looking to unidentified “labor markets” to set pay ranges, with increases or decreases in employees’ based on recommendations of their direct supervisor.

“This plan is likely to lead to employee dissatisfaction and mistrust,” said Ahrens. “To be fair at all, it will require lengthy training of supervisors, and a neutral review process for the many complaints that will follow.”

UW professor Joel Rogers, a WUU member and longtime student of HR systems, emphasized the amount of work required for the analysis. “Done properly, the task of specifying the real human capital requirements of hundreds of UW job titles; identifying jobs with the same requirements in external labor markets; collecting all relevant data on their compensation from private employers; and doing all this continuously enough to capture relevant changes, job titles, compensation practices, and labor market boundaries and participants is a massive amount of work,” he said.

“There’s no realistic way to avoid a lot of friction, subjective judgment, and unfairness in this,” observes Professor Emeritus Steven Bauman, anther WUU member. “I suspect its real result will be lower compensation for most, higher for a few, and an awful lot of bad will. That doesn’t improve our status quo on compensation. And it threatens the amicability and shared sense of fair standards, fairly applied, needed for a truly productive university community.”

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