March 10-23, 2000
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New plan gets attention of employees

By Rebecca Arrington

More than 70 University employees crammed into a fourth-floor room in Newcomb Hall March 2 for a press conference of the Labor Action Group. Members of the group outlined their concerns with the reform of the classified compensation plan, now up for a vote by the General Assembly. The employee advocacy group wants the plan, which has been in the works since 1998, to be postponed for at least one year so that classified employees can become better informed about it and have more of a say in it.

U.Va.'s Chief Human Resource Officer Tom Gausvik, who didn't attend the press conference, said in a later interview that he expects the plan currently before the General Assembly to be approved. He said that the Governor's 1998 Workforce Survey, completed by 45,598 of the state's 63,000 employees, was an "important tool" in developing the revised plan and noted that 30,000 hours had been spent in the last two years on the design of this plan.

Gausvik said that in the 17 years he's been here he's heard employees and managers statewide say the existing compensation plan needs to be fixed. The workforce has raised many concerns within their agencies, to the Governor and to lawmakers that the current pay plan is not competitive with the labor market and does not reward or properly compensate employees. The new plan, hammered out by some 50 state employees, 75 percent of whom were classified employees, "fixes every issue I've heard brought up," he said.

In January, the governor's Commission on Reform of the Classified Compensation Plan approved recommendations made by the two committees that have been working on the design of the plan for the past two years -- the Technical Advisory Committee, chaired by Gausvik, and the Employee Advisory Committee.

The employee committee, made up of 18 classified employees, advised the technical committee, a group consisting of central agency representatives, chief human resource officers of the largest state agencies and legislative fiscal analysts, as the new plan was being created.

"We gave them input based on what we and our co-workers wanted," said employee representative Ernest Barnes, a program support technician in the Division of Unclaimed Property at the state's Department of Treasury. "We met once a month with the members of the technical committee. We expressed our opinions freely, and they were open to all of our suggestions," Barnes said.

Employees at the maximum salary of their pay grade will have an opportunity for salary growth in the new pay bands. ... "This is good news for approximately 400 classified employees at U.Va."

Tom Gausvik
U.Va. Chief Human Resource Officer

He is happy with the final report, but said no plan will please everyone. He's especially satisfied with the pay-for-performance, not pay-for-position aspect of the new plan. "I wanted to stray away from across-the-board raises to being paid for the quality of work that employees do," he said.

Though there was no U.Va. classified employee on the employee panel, two other employees, a secretary senior from James Madison University, and an administrative assistant from Norfolk State University, represented the state's higher education institutions on the committee. Along with Gausvik, one other U.Va. employee served on the technical committee.

The new plan, if approved in this year's budget, will be implemented beginning July 1, according to a Feb. 24 letter from Gausvik sent to all U.Va. classified employees. Also provided was a copy of the final report of the plan, which Gausvik said has been designed to "attract and retain qualified employees" and to "motivate employees by rewarding sustained performance."

Key features of the proposed plan include reducing the 23 pay grades to nine broad pay bands, and increasing the minimum and maximum salary of each pay band. Employees who are at the maximum salary of their current pay grade will have an opportunity for additional salary growth in the new pay bands, Gausvik said. "This is good news for approximately 400 classified employees at U.Va. and approximately 6,500 statewide who are currently at the maximum of their pay grade."

The new plan will also consolidate roughly 1,640 state job classifications into 275 new broad "roles." This will provide more opportunities for employee career growth, including the ability to progress through the pay band at any time for taking on additional duties and for demonstrating enhanced performance through job-related training and education, Gausvik said.

In addition, the plan will provide flexibility for pay adjustments for retention of employees and in the case of significant salary compression; the ability, for the first time, for employees to negotiate promotional salary increases; and the opportunity to receive up to a $1,000 bonus. The new plan will also reduce the number of rating levels in the performance evaluation from five to three, add an employee self-assessment and give employees a chance to anonymously evaluate their supervisor's performance. (For more on the new plan, see the Jan 21. issue of Inside UVA at

At its press conference, LAG members agreed that classified employees need a reformed compensation package, but said that they need a better one than what's currently being offered. "What they're doing is paying the person, not the position," said Nelson Lichtenstein, U.Va. history professor and LAG spokesperson. "It will give discretion, fairly [or] maybe unfairly, to management."

LAG claims that the proposed plan would reduce job security, change job descriptions so workers will have to take on more responsibilities without more pay, and allow supervisors undue discretion to reward whomever they choose.

LAG members also contend that low-wage workers in routine jobs will reap few benefits, and that loyalty and seniority are poorly rewarded under the "broad-band" concept. They cited a 1997 Arthur Anderson consulting firm report, which declares that under such compensation systems, workers doing routine jobs "get stuck ... at the bottom of their pay band, which is not good for morale."

LAG also charged that employees didn't play a big enough role in the overhaul of the system. There were no lower-level classified employees on the technical committee, and no public meetings were held at any state agency to inform workers about the plan as it was being drafted.

At the press conference, LAG members urged U.Va. employees to call their legislators and ask them to delay implementing the plan for at least a year. The assembly will vote on the budget bill by March 11.

Gausvik, who first outlined the plan at U.Va. during a Nov. 17, 1998 public forum on "Rights & Wages," which was sponsored by LAG, advises employees with questions to contact Human Resources at or phone 924-4598.

The commission's final report is online at

Informational sessions and training for employees will begin sometime in April or May, Gausvik said. Training for managers will begin in June.



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