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 March 24, 2000 Volume 7, Number 13


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CUPE & ASPA job evaluation projects advance

By Robert James


Many University of Saskatchewan employees would likely agree the current job classification system on campus is seriously outdated.

The system is 25 years old and the introduction of computers and other technology has resulted in substantial changes to many jobs. The need to keep the classification system current through these changes has been challenging for the University and its employees.

These have included the 1,200 workers represented by CUPE (Canadian Union of Public Employees) Local 1975’s at the University of Saskatchewan, and the 550 members of ASPA (Administrative and Supervisory Personnel Association).

Under their collective agreements, University employees can ask for a job re-classification once every three years. The process currently is described as a very long, narrative procedure held before a special committee in which ASPA and CUPE are observers.

ASPA spokesperson Brad Steeves says, "the re-classification process has often been referred to as the black box. Nobody knew what happened there. There is no solid criteria."

CUPE representative Jim Sharman says, "Trying to have your job re-classified is cumbersome, takes time and many members believed they weren’t successful because the system is very subjective. With as many as 20 grievances over job classification, it’s clear the system needs an overhaul."

Sharman adds, "Our expectations remain to come up with a fair and equitable way of classifying jobs, so we would know how our members’ jobs are valued." ASPA has taken a similar view.

The result is separate partnerships between these bargaining units and the University to focus on adopting new gender-neutral job evaluation systems designed to reflect their memberships’ jobs. The CUPE job evaluation also includes a partnership with the University of Regina, where 400 members of Local 1975 work.

For the past year-and-a-half, these parties have been diligently working toward the goal of fair and equitable systems while trying to keep university employees fully informed along the way.

It started with the creation of a step-by-step action plan, which began with identifying job factors, that the partners agree are worth paying for.

Factors are criteria for measuring jobs and can be found in all jobs. Typical factors are: education and experience, communication, supervisory and problem-solving skills. Twelve factors were identified for ASPA’s new job evaluation system while the CUPE 1975 system will have nine factors.

Currently, permanent and seasonal U of S and U of R CUPE employees and all ASPA members are busy filling out job evaluation questionnaires. Managers for those employees are also being asked to complete the managerial section of the questionnaire.

Charlotte Rochon, Job Evaluation Projects Co-ordinator, is charged with working with the two joint employer/employee committees overseeing the project’s implementation.

She explains: "The job evaluation questionnaire is designed to collect information about a specific job so that the rating committee, when it looks at all the jobs and compares them with each other, has the concrete information to really be able to understand the job."

In filling out their questionnaires, University employees are challenged to shift their thinking about their jobs. Where the current classification system measures jobs based on the duties assigned, the new job evaluation systems will measure jobs based on the level of functioning required to perform the work assigned. In other words, the duties may change over time, but as long as the level of functioning required to perform them remains the same, the job’s rating will not change. Of course, should duties be assigned that require higher levels of functioning, then a re-classification could be in order.

Once all questionnaires have been filled out, the next step is to begin rating each job by examining them on a factor-by-factor basis to determine where they fit relative to each other. Three joint committees made up of employee and employer representatives will sit down to begin this evaluation process. Rochon explains in the case of CUPE 1975, there are two committees – one at the U of R and another at the U of S. ASPA has one committee.

"The rating process will require plenty of discussion. We need to be very clear why it is jobs are rated the way they are, and that way we can ensure that the whole job evaluation process is credible."

Added to the complexity of the process is the fact CUPE has two committees rating jobs at the U of S and U of R. Jobs rated the same today on both campuses may end up being rated differently once this job evaluation process is complete. Both CUPE committees have plans to meet and examine such differences to determine whether they make sense. The results will then be discussed with joint employer-employee committees at the U of S and U of R.

It’s expected that by this time next year, committees overseeing both projects will have submitted a final report and recommendations to the four principals: the U of S, U of R and CUPE 1975 for the CUPE project, and the U of S and ASPA for the ASPA project.

The new job evaluation criteria will be used to negotiate CUPE and ASPA’s next collective agreements.

ASPA negotiations are already under way, but union officials say they will try and negotiate a one-year deal or ask that there be a re-opener clause once the job evaluation process is complete.

CUPE contract talks begin in June and, since wages are often the last item up for discussion, it’s expected the new job classification system will be in place by that time.

For some members, it may mean a pay raise, while others may have their jobs red-circled.

CUPE’s Jim Sharman stresses, "Nobody through this process is going to lose wages. If your job is red-circled, you would still get all of the negotiated wage increases until you decide to leave that job. At that point, the position will be rated at the lower rate and anyone new coming into the position will get the wage rate that it’s been valued at."

However, anyone whose job has been red-circled and currently receives wage increments under the CUPE contract will no longer receive the annual wage hike. In the case of ASPA, members who qualify following the annual review process will still receive both the negotiated wage increase plus, their annual increment.

Employees not satisfied with the new job classification will still have an avenue to appeal, along with the option of voting against any collective agreement.

The U of S has set aside one per cent of its payroll budget for job evaluation discrepancies.

CUPE plans to lobby the provincial government to cover any shortfalls. Sharman says, "The province paid for pay equity in SaskTel, SaskEnergy and other Crown corporations, and we too are publicly funded and the government should do that for us as well."

Although, the entire process is taking longer than anticipated Sharman and Steeves ask their members to be patient adding, "anything worthwhile takes time."

And they want to assure them – the new job rating system will not only be better and more responsive to change, but the University has been a strong and willing partner throughout.

Steeves says, "Every step of the process along the way has been collective, and that has been very positive. We’re quite pleased with how it’s been going along."

While some employees may be skeptical or nervous, by the time the process is complete early next year, all sides fully believe the new job evaluation procedures will clearly result in a win/win situation.




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