July 12-25, 2002
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Medical Center realigning work force
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Medical Center realigning work force

170 positions cut; no layoffs anticipated

By Matt Kelly

As part of an effort to save $28 million, the Medical Center budgeted for 170 fewer positions in fiscal year 2003, but in an effort to avoid layoffs, the hospital will work to reassign the affected employees.

Concerns about the jobs spurred the U.Va. Staff Union to hold a protest. Members believe employees have been excluded from the decision-making process, and they gathered at the Corner on June 26 to circulate petitions asking for a greater voice.

Under the Medical Center’s plan, realigned employees would be given priority in applying for other positions within the center. The job eliminations have been determined by comparing the center with 12 comparable medical facilities, according to William E. “Nick” Carter, chief operating officer of the Medical Center.

“We will identify areas where changes in staffing levels must be made to improve efficiency,” Carter told employees in a letter. He said the realignment, which affects about 3 percent of the hospital workforce, will seek a better match between patient volume and staffing.

Employees in the realignment pool will be interviewed by the Medical Center’s Human Resources department to determine what jobs they are qualified for, then will be put in line for other positions, he said. They also will be first priority for positions that open through attrition. Carter said he hopes to have two or three jobs to offer each candidate.

If someone takes a job that pays less than the one he or she has now, Carter said, his or her salary is frozen at its current level until the pay grade of the new job rises to that level. Once in the reassignment pool, an employee continues working in his or her department (though not necessarily at the same job) at the same grade of pay while applying for other positions. That continues until the employee successfully applies for another job. However, if the person turns down a job offer, then he or she will be considered to have resigned.

Carter stressed that the entire system was being examined and all classifications of employees, with the exception of physicians, were affected. He said 10 managers whose contracts are not being renewed are not part of the 170 targeted positions.

The job elimination, which accounts for one-quarter to one-third of the $28 million savings, is scheduled to take place over the next year. Carter’s goal is to have it completed sooner to ease employees’ anxieties.

He said the positions to be eliminated have been determined and all employees have been notified.

The issues and the realignment plan were outlined to about 400 employees in five town hall meetings at the Medical Center from June 24-26. In addition, employees met with their supervisors and received letters that further explained the process.
Last week’s union protest was designed to bring public pressure to bear on the Medical Center. The union is seeking accountability from center officials, said union president Jan Cornell.

At the protest, 105 signatures were collected and added to the 500 signatures already gathered. Cornell planned to present letters and signed petitions calling for a meeting between union officials and Leonard W. Sandridge, University executive vice president and chief operating officer, and R. Edward Howell, Medical Center chief executive officer.

Union members said the employees have had no say in what happens with their jobs. Cornell said meetings were held during which employees were told what was going to happen, but she said they were not given an opportunity for input.

“People don’t feel bad if they are part of the decision-making process,” Cornell said.



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