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Utah State Technology Employees to become "exempt" from their rights

The State of Utah is going fully corporate under a new law (HB109) that creates a new Department of Technology Services (DTS) and changes the status of all new hires to exempt or non-merit so called schedule AT employees. "AT" or "exempt" employees are different than the current "schedule B" or "career service employees" such as  myself in the rights they have to their jobs and in hiring and firing decisions. The "exempt" employee status means that, "works at the will and pleasure of the employing agency and can be released from their appointment at any time without explaination or just cause."

Fellow worker Raphael C and many thousands of her co-workers coming under the rules and management of the new DTS received a threatening memo from management dated April 3, 2006. In effect this memo attempts to extort existing Utah State Information Technology Services employees to voluntarily give up their schedule B, career service employee status, moving to AT or exempt employment status in exchange for a 3 step hourly pay increase. The memo reprinted below in effect threatens existing career service employees when it states that, "There are two ways that this conversion will take place.

1. Conversion to Schedule AT while in your current position.

2. Conversion to Schedule AT due to a change of duties"

Management continues the intimidation in the memo and makes promises that it won't honestly keep , ""Schedule AT employees are not subject to reduction in force (RIF) provisions as contained in Human Resource Management Rules R477-12-3. This means that only schedule B employees may be released in a RIF without releasing any schedule AT employees."

The net effect of this bait and switch from career service employment to AT or "at the will and pleasure of the executive director/management" will be to place rank and file employees of DTS into the employment status of appointment executives and/or managers. They can be cut moved or terminated from a position at any time for any reason. Pay, hours, job duties may be cut or reassigned at the will of management. It seems one additional step on the way to contract employment of IT workers in Utah.

The Utah State Legislature and Governor currently have direct control over employee benefits and compensation. However, the executives are appointees of the Governor and serve at his will and pleasure, very much like "AT" status employees. Under current law and state employment policy the executives and managers of Utah state government are categorically prohibited from collectively bargaining with state employees or from recognizing any collective bargaining unit.

The trade off had always been the "merited" career service status of rank and file employees and some mid level managers. The state employment policy provided for rights of due process for termination or punitive action by management that is similar in nature to constitutional protections to due process rights with respect to property. State jobs are considered a "property right" until now. Schedule AT is the first step to changing all that for Utah state employees.

The Corporate take-over under our exorbitant billionaire, chemicial industry giant, Jon Huntsman Jr. is in full swing. DTS and every employee in it will come under his direct control and management. Employees are being given a chance to increase their wage by 3 steps within the pay range of the employees position. This equates to approximately  8.25% for workers that can increase that much within the pay range for their job title.

It is the old spend money to make money attitude of management. Or in other words, management is saying, your rights as employees are expensive to us. Tell you what we will buy your rights and protections from you for 8.25% one time salary increase. It's worth it because if you don't we may just eliminate your position and reassign you to a new job as an "exempt" worker anyway. And when we do that you won't get any raises, just a notice to move.

The Communcation Workers of America have made contact with some Utah state employess in the Information Technology Department. The change to DTS and new rules goes into effect July 1, 2006. The Utah Supreme Court has upheld this decision by the Governor, Legislature and Co. So the uselessness of "employee associations" and lobby groups is really showing through now. The Utah Public Employees Association (UPEA) has fought the law and the law won. You can follow their lawyers fight at www.upea.net.. TIme and time again the money follows the power and the law does not mean shit at the end of the day.

We workers must take our destinies into our own hands. Direct action, strike until the policy is rescinded not one repair, no more help desk for the Governor's staff, no more e-mails to greasy lobbyists for crooked legislatures until HB109 is rescidned and all employees are restored to career service employee status and we deserve a real Union that can keep our "merit" status protected and get us the 8.25% increase with it. Utah State Workers have to get together on this with IT employees or it will be at our office doors and it will be too late.

 

For more information contact the Salt Lake City General Membership Branch, FW Nate S. x 356856.

 Here's the lovely little Memo from Utah state management:

M E M O R A N D U M
TO:                  
FROM:           J. Stephen Fletcher, CIO/Executive Director
                        Department of Technology Services
DATE:               April 3, 2006
SUBJECT:        Voluntary Conversion to Career Service Exempt Schedule AT
I am pleased to announce that we are now ready to proceed with the next phase of the implementation of the new Department of Technology Services (DTS), the option for employees to convert from career service (merit) to career service exempt Schedule AT. There are two ways that this conversion will take place.
  1. Conversion to Schedule AT while in your current position.
  2. Conversion to Schedule AT due to a change of duties.
The following information may be helpful for you to consider in making your decision to convert to career service exempt while in your current job as well as what happens to your career service status when you are promoted or are transferred to a different position.
What it Means to be Career Service Exempt Schedule AT
Schedule AT employees are defined in UCA 67-19-15 (1) as employees of DTS, designated as executive/professional positions by the Executive Director of the Department of Technology Services with the concurrence of the Director, Department of Human Resource Management.  It is important for you to understand the following:
Ø       Schedule AT employees are not subject to reduction in force (RIF) provisions as contained in Human Resource Management Rules R477-12-3. This means that only Schedule B employees may be released in a RIF without releasing any Schedule AT employees.
Ø       Schedule AT employees are not subjected to the same recruitment and selection rules that apply to Schedule B employees. Therefore, Schedule AT employees will have greater possibilities for advancements and assignments as opportunities arise.  This is due to the agency having greater flexibility and ability to move more rapidly in staffing to meet its business needs. 
Ø       A career service exempt employee works at the will and pleasure of the employing agency and can be released from their appointment at any time without explanation and just cause. 
Ø       A career service exempt employee does not have access to the State's grievance procedure.  However, all employees have access to the Alternative Dispute Resolution program sponsored by DHRM and CSRB.  (Please be aware that for actions believed to be of a discriminatory nature, a career service exempt employee’s rights are protected consistent with the provisions outlined in Chapter 2 of the Human Resource Management Rules).


 

Reappointment Register
Please be aware that career service employees who convert to career service exempt without a break in service have a benefit that is mandated in UCA 67-19-17; this law mandates that any career service employee accepting an appointment to an exempt position, who is not retained by the appointing officer, unless discharged for cause, shall:   
1.       Be appointed to any career service position for which the employee qualifies in a pay grade (salary range) comparable to the employee's last position in the career service provided an opening exists; or,
2.        Be appointed to any lesser career service position for which the employee qualifies pending the opening of a position described in No. 1 above.  The Department of Human Resource Management (DHRM) is mandated to maintain a reappointment register for this purpose and it shall have precedence over other registers.
Your name shall stay on this register until you are placed into a career service position or you request your name be removed from the reappointment register.  DHRM will send you a written yearly inquiry to determine your status and decision to remain or not remain on the register.
Severance Benefits Available to Career Service Exempt Employees Schedule AT
            A benefits eligible career service exempt Schedule AT employee who is separated from state service through an action initiated by management, to include resignation in lieu of termination, shall receive at the time of separation,
1.       a benefit equal to:  one week of pay, up to a maximum of 12 weeks, for each year of consecutive exempt service in the executive branch; and,
2.       If eligible for COBRA, one month of health insurance coverage, up to a maximum of six months, for each year of consecutive exempt service, at the level of coverage the employee has at the time of severance, to be paid in a lump sum payment to the state’s health care provider.
A benefits eligible career service exempt employee who is reassigned to a position with a lower salary range with a reduction in pay, without a break in service, shall receive a severance benefit equal to the difference between their current hourly rate of pay and their new hourly rate of pay multiplied by the  number of accrued annual leave, converted sick leave, and excess hours at the date of reassignment.
A severance benefit shall not be paid to an employee who is retiring from state service or who is discharged for cause. Please be aware that the State does not participate in early retirement buyouts such as the 25-year-and-out provision currently in law.
Conversion Process to Schedule AT While in Your Current Position – Effective July 1, 2006
This letter provides employees the opportunity to convert to Schedule AT while in your current position. Employees electing to convert through this process shall be designated as career service exempt Schedule AT effective July 1, 2006. Please be aware that the legislation (HB109) that establishes DTS, provides for DTS and the Department of Human Resource Management (DHRM) to develop financial and other incentives to encourage career service employees who are reassigned to DTS and performing duties that are substantially similar as those in their current position, to voluntarily convert from career service to career service exempt Schedule AT.  The following benefits are effective July 1, 2006 if you elect to convert to Schedule AT:
  1. A base salary increase of three salary steps. If you are at the maximum of your current salary range or in longevity you shall receive, in lieu of the salary step adjustment, a one time bonus of 8.25%. If you are one step below the maximum of the salary range you shall receive a one step adjustment to the maximum of your salary range and a bonus of 5.5%. If you are two steps below the maximum, you shall receive a two step adjustment and a bonus of 2.75%. In either


 

case, the effective date of the increase shall be effective July 1, 2006. Any bonus shall be awarded based on the new hourly rates effective July 1, 2006 that will include the 3.5% Cost of Living Adjustment.
  1. State paid term life insurance coverage, if determined eligible through underwriting by the Group Insurance Office of PEHP:
                                       i.      Salaries less than $50,000, shall receive $125,000 of term life insurance;
                                     ii.      Salaries between $50,000 and $60,000 shall receive $150,000 of term life insurance;
                                    iii.      Salaries more than $60,000 shall receive $200,000 of term life insurance.
     3.    Please note, if you elect not to convert to career service exempt at this time, you shall retain your career service status. If you elect to convert to career service exempt after July 1, 2006, you shall not be eligible for the salary increase but may apply for the life insurance coverage through the Group Insurance Office and would be eligible for severance pay.      
4.   The decision to convert is entirely yours. But, in either case, the attached Agreement to Convert to Schedule AT must be returned to Larene Wyss in the DTS Human Resource Office by Friday, June 2, 2006.
Conversion from Career Service (Schedule B) to Career Service Exempt (Schedule AT) After July 1, 2006
Conversion to Schedule AT is mandated when, as part of recruitment/selection, you are offered and accept appointment to a different position. Since the acceptance to the new position is voluntary and your duties change, your position schedule assignment will change to Schedule AT. The effective date of conversion to Schedule AT shall correspond to the effective date of the promotion or transfer. The only exception to this shall be for an employee promoted while in an underfill status; underfill occurs when an employee is filling a position at a lower salary range within the same job series. An example of underfill is when an employee is classified as an IT Analyst I but they are underfilling the position that is established as an IT Analyst II. In these cases a promotion to their authorized level IT Analyst II shall not result in a loss of career status.
An employee who is promoted or transferred to a new position after July 1, 2006, resulting in a conversion to Schedule AT, is not entitled to the salary increase addressed above in Conversion Process to Schedule AT While in Your Current Position. However, an employee shall receive a salary increase consistent with the Human Resource Management Rule R477-6-4(3) if the employee is promoted to a new position with a higher maximum salary range than their current position. An employee who transfers to a new position with a salary range that is equal or less than their current range is not entitled to any increase in salary. An employee who converts to Schedule AT as a result of a promotion or transfer to a new position may apply for the state paid life insurance through the Group Insurance Office.
Reassignments and Reclassifications Will Not Result in Conversion to Schedule AT
An employee who retained career service status (Schedule B) who is subsequently reassigned by management to a different position or who is reclassified to a different job due to a change of duties and responsibilities assigned by agency management will not be required to convert to Schedule AT.
Reduction in Force (RIF) Process – Retention of Schedule AT Versus Schedule B
Schedule AT employees are not included in the definition of “temporary employee” pursuant to Utah Code 67-19-3(18). Therefore, Schedule AT employees are not subject to reduction in force (RIF) provisions as contained in Human Resource Management Rules R477-12-3. This means that only Schedule B employees may be released in a RIF process without releasing any Schedule AT employees.


 

Other Related Information
 
Benefits Available to Any Employee Separating from State Service:  Please be aware that any employee separating from state service shall have their annual leave, converted sick, and excess hours balances cashed out. An employee separating from state service may not receive compensation for accrued sick leave unless retiring. An employee who is rehired within 12 months of separation to a position that receives sick leave benefits shall have previously accrued unused sick leave balances reinstated. An employee who retires from state service and is rehired may not reinstate unused sick leave balances.
Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) status: The FLSA designation of exempt or non-exempt for positions and employees will not change because of conversion to Schedule AT or movement of employees and positions into DTS. However, if an employee is promoted, reclassified, transferred, or reassigned, their FLSA status may change if their new position has a different FLSA designation as compared to their old position.
Excess hours and compensatory time: Excess hours and compensatory time balances shall be carried forward as positions are transferred into the DTS accounting structure on July 1, 2006. However, please be aware that compensatory time for FLSA exempt employees, will lapse at the end of payroll period 26, the overtime year for DTS.
Employee Benefits: The conversion to DTS or to career service exempt will not constitute a change to an employee’s benefits other than an employee converting to Schedule AT to apply for additional state paid life insurance. Conversion to Schedule AT does not result in a change of an employee’s leave accrual rate.
                       
If you have any questions, please contact Larene Wyss, Human Resource Director, at 538-3361 or lwyss@utah.gov.  Please complete the attached election form and send to Larene without the employer’s signature to the following address:
            Larene Wyss
            State Office Building, Suite 6000
            Salt Lake City, UT 84114
 
Attachment
                                                                             
DEPARTMENT OF TECHNOLOGY SERVICES
ELECTION OF STATUS
RETENTION OF CAREER SERVICE STATUS OR CONVERSION TO CAREER SERVICE EXEMPT STATUS
Employee Name:                                                                                 EIN:                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    
Assigned Agency:                                         PCN:                               Job ID:                                                                                                                                            
Job Title:   
I understand that as a result of the passage of HB109 I have the opportunity to elect to convert to career service exempt Schedule AT. I have read the attached memorandum from Stephen Fletcher dated April 3, 2006, and understand that I have the option to voluntarily convert to career service exempt Schedule AT or remain as a career service employee.
In view of the foregoing,
CHECK ONE:
___ I voluntarily elect to convert from career service (merit) to career service exempt Schedule AT.
I understand that by accepting this conversion, I am by law exempted from all rights of a career service employee.  Effective July 1, 2006, I will work at the will and pleasure of my employing agency and can be released without just cause.
If I make this election on or before June 2, 2006, I will receive the three-step salary increase and/or bonus and right to apply for the exempt life insurance as explained in Mr. Fletcher’s memorandum.  I understand that by accepting this conversion that the effective date for the three-step salary increase/bonus shall be effective July 1, 2006.
___I elect not to convert to career service exempt at this time; I understand that I may elect to make this conversion at a later date but will not be eligible for the three-step salary increase/bonus.
I have read and understand the provisions contained in this agreement.
_______________________________________    _______________________________
Employee’s Signature                                                    Date
_______________________________________    _______________________________

Employer’s Signature                                                     Date