Fair Wage initiative sets new minimum pay level at Syracuse University
Fair Wage initiative sets new minimum pay level at Syracuse UniversityFebruary 12, 2001Cynthia J. Moritzcjmoritz@syr.edu
The starting salaries for Syracuse University’s lowest-paid employees will be raised substantially under the new Fair Wage initiative announced Feb. 12 by Chancellor Kenneth A. Shaw. The initiative will affect nearly 800 current technical, clerical and temporary employees. The adjustment will be included with budgeted staff raises for the fiscal year starting July 1, 2001. Under the old system, an employee who currently earns $6.50 per hour would normally be eligible for a pay raise of 4 percent, bringing his or her salary up to $6.76 per hour. With the Fair Wage initiative, this employee’s base pay will rise to $7.75 per hour, an increase of more than 19 percent. “It is important that we establish a base wage level for jobs at Syracuse University that balances market information and our need to remain viable in a competitive market with the needs of our employees to provide the basic necessities of life for themselves and their families,” says Shaw. The Fair Wage initiative will raise the base pay level from minimum wage in some cases to $7.75 per hour. The base pay minimum will be raised to $8.50 in 2002 and again in 2003 to $9.01 per hour. “The Fair Wage initiative follows a yearlong study of the issue and is the continuation of a systematic improvement in staff salaries that has been under way at SU for the past five or six years,” says Neil Strodel, associate vice president for human resources. For three years beginning in fiscal year 1996-97 the annual salary increase pool was redistributed to align staff salaries more closely with the market as a result of the work of the Chancellor’s Task Force on Staff Compensation. The secretarial, clerical and technical staff received higher percentage increases than the exempt staff during this period. In July 2000, the New Approach to Staff Compensation project culminated in the reclassification of 2,300 SU positions. As a result of an extensive market survey that was part of the project, about $150,000 above the amount budgeted for merit raises was added to the salary budget for staff in order to implement the New Approach classification system.
Funds remaining from the implementation of the New Approach to Staff Compensation project will be applied to the Fair Wage initiative. “When we first started the New Approach project, we planned on implementation costs of 1 percent of our payroll,” says Roger Casanova, director of compensation. “Our implementation costs for that phase of the project were lower than we expected, which provides us additional resources that can be put toward this initiative.” A second source of funding will come from a reallocation of the budgeted merit increase pool over the next three years. “We will be taking one-tenth of 1 percent of the budgeted merit increase pool for staff employees in each of the next three years to raise the base salary of our lowest-paid employees,” says Casanova. The combination of the two sources of funding actually results in an overall increase in the merit pool. The Fair Wage initiative was developed because “it was the right thing to do,” says Shaw. “We value our employees and want to continue to create an environment for them that sets us apart from other places of employment.” According to Eleanor Ware, vice president for human services and government relations, the Fair Wage Initiative is closely aligned with the five core values of Syracuse University: quality, caring, diversity, innovation and service. “This will help us both reward the high-quality performers already on staff and improve the caliber and diversity of the individuals we recruit and retain,” says Ware. “Our Fair Wage initiative shows the University’s continued commitment to caring about the personal and professional needs of our employees through the implementation of progressive work-life policies.” Wages for SU’s bargaining unit employees are a matter of contract, according to Jack Matson, director of staff relations and recruitment, and the Fair Wage initiative will be an important topic in upcoming contract discussions, due to commence in May. “The Fair Wage initiative is an issue that should apply to all of our employee groups, including those who are members of the union,” Matson says. “We look forward to discussing this issue with our counterparts in the SEIU during our contract talks.” Pay for graduate assistants, graduate associates, adjunct and part-time faculty, and summer appointees is being handled separately from the Fair Wage initiative; a 4 percent budget increment will be applied to these positions, effective July 1, 2001. In addition, a new base level is being established for new graduate assistants; effective July 1, 2001, the minimum academic-year stipend for a full-time (20 hour per week) graduate assistant will increase by 4 percent, from the current rate of $7,998 to $8,320.