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Union workers at U of MN respond to administration report to legislature

AFSCME 3800 says ‘Chop from the top’
By staff |
March 12, 2013
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Minneapolis, MN – On March 12, the University of Minnesota presented the report it commissioned on its management structure to the Senate Higher Education Committee.

Cherrene Horazuk, President of AFSCME 3800 and a clerical worker in the Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs, said of the report, “This confirms what we have been saying for years. The university has a problem with top-heavy management. We see again and again that front line staff who serve students and the community get laid off while upper management positions not only are protected, but are increased along with their salaries.”

The report uses two models for analyzing four departments handpicked by university administration. The benchmarking used by one of the models (Bain and Company) states that there should be six to seven direct reports per supervisor for expertise-based functions and eleven to thirteen direct reports for task-based functions. The U of M falls grossly below this standard, with the average manager in three of these departments (Procurement, Finance, Human Resources) supervising five people or fewer. The other model (Sibson) paints a more favorable picture but still finds 29 people in these four departments who supervise only one person. Neither model takes into account staffing changes that have occurred over time, and thus miss the greater question of how the U of M got so top-heavy.

Melanie Steinman, Chief Steward of AFSCME Local 3800 and a clerical worker in American Studies said, “AFSCME has conducted our own analysis of staffing changes from 2008 to 2012, based on numbers provided to us from the university’s Office of Institutional Reporting. Since 2008, civil service positions have been reduced by 7.5% (approximately 750 positions). Of those, AFSCME-represented clerical positions have been reduced by nearly 10% - a loss of 150 jobs. At the same time, upper management (academic administrative staff) increased by 3.8%, or 85 positions.”

Steinman continued, “Most of the AFSCME job losses came in the form of layoffs - real people losing their jobs at the height of the worst economic crisis in nearly a century while the university’s 1% grew and prospered. In the past ten years, hundreds of senior management positions have been added, while tuition has doubled – making a quality education unattainable for the children of many working class Minnesotans.”

She added, “AFSCME at the university is glad to see the governor’s proposal for an increase in funding to the University of Minnesota and MNSCU and for scholarship funds. We also welcome the call for a more accountable university.”

Horazuk stated, “We are glad to hear President Kaler express a commitment to make real changes in the staffing layers and spans at the university. It’s unfortunate that it took front-page headlines in national news outlets for this to come about. Without a serious re-commitment to the University of Minnesota’s original mission to provide accessible and affordable education, as well as a commitment to provide decent, livable wage jobs for
all workers, the future for students, workers and all Minnesotans is at risk.”

Horazuk added, “We also question the allocation of nearly half a million dollars to develop a plan for reducing administrative costs when the solution to the U’s administrative bloat is quite simple: chop from the top.”