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Commitment to Lowest-Paid Employees

I am committed to improving the salaries of our lowest-paid employees, and I hope to be able to do so in concrete terms when I present my first budget to the Board of Visitors in June, 2011. Only last week did we receive final confirmation of our appropriation from the state and of our tuition rates for next year, so only now are we able to work concretely on the 2011-2012 budget.

  • Effective July 1, the minimum hiring rate will increase from $10.14 to $10.65, a 5% increase.
  • I have requested that the 2011-12 budget include an investment in the compensation of our lowest-paid employees effective with the salary increases scheduled for November 25, 2011.
  • Susan Carkeek is revising the current subsidy for employees earning less than $40,000 that will extend the program to include employees earning less than $42,000 (to reflect the 5% increase) and will increase the current benefit of $300 per year to offset the impact of the 5% employee contribution now mandated for VRS. The exact impact is 7.65% of the 5% increase, or a maximum of $150 per year. This subsidy is a financial arrangement that is not part of the paycheck but may be used to pay for University benefits (such as health care).

The Living Wage Coalition has presented to me three proposals which, in their opinion, do not cost money and would represent progress. I appreciate the collaborative spirit in which these proposals were presented. I prefer, however, to seek progress on salary issues through the budget process—that is, with actual dollars—if it be possible to do so.

The first of the proposals was to issue a statement to the effect that employees have free speech rights and may speak without fear of retaliation. That statement was issued April 11 and is grounded in specific citation to the University's Code of Ethics. Moreover, this statement stands in contrast to some recent judicial decisions that have limited the free speech rights of employees of public universities. This statement is being added to the HR website on compensation to make it clear that free speech includes compensation issues.

The second proposal called for an "audit" of the existing vendor contracts. This request requires further discussion. The University currently has 1153 contracts for services, of which 778 are for construction and related services and the remainder are for a variety of other services. One of our largest vendors, ARAMARK, has told us that they pay the same minimum hiring rate as the University, and they have worked with us over time to keep up with UVa's minimum hiring rate. It is also relevant to consider the Attorney General's advice (PDF).

The third proposal calls for a statement that contains specific language. I am willing to make a statement, but I want to use my own words. I am prepared to say that I place a high priority on improving salaries for University employees, especially because of the lack of raises over the last three years. The competitive position of the University requires that we attend to issues of compensation at UVa.

Teresa A. Sullivan