Chancellor endorses salary report
Advisory group to guide changes to compensation, classification system

By Diane Ainsworth, Public Affairs

16 August 2001 | Chancellor Berdahl has endorsed all of the recommendations of a committee charged with finding ways to improve the campus’s staff compensation and classification system, but said limited state funding in this year’s budget will mean upgrading salaries will take longer than the committee recommended.

“Outstanding staff are essential to Berkeley’s excellence,” Berdahl said. “Without outstanding staff, our faculty cannot achieve pre-eminence in teaching and research, and our students cannot take full advantage of their Berkeley education. We simply must provide adequate career opportunities and fair compensation for staff if we are to meet these important obligations.”

The Chancellor’s Compensation Advisory Committee’s final report outlined a series of recommendations to increase staff pay and streamline the staff classification system. Among them is a multi-year plan to bring administrative salaries up to market rates over time. The report estimated it would cost about $30 million to bring all staff salaries up to regional market rates over three years; non-state funding would have to make up more than half the total gap.

Now, working with Berdahl, an advisory group of faculty and staff, headed by Vice Chancellor for Research Beth Burnside, is laying the groundwork for a multi-year effort to implement the recommendations. But with the tightening state budget, the task will be particularly challenging, Berdahl said.

“I believe a multi-year, phased plan will be necessary, but that it will take more than the three years to implement all of the committee’s recommendations,” Berdahl said. “Implementation will in any event require not just significant support from the state of California, but campus funds as well.

“To keep and recruit talented staff, we will have to make significant changes,” Berdahl said. “Staff salaries for many employees have fallen behind their comparable market rates. We will move forward with improvements, but the current economic downturn and the substantial reduction in the funds the university will be receiving from the state makes short-term solutions more difficult.”

The 2001-2002 state budget for UC provided only a 2 percent increase in funding for salaries and benefits.

The Compensation Advisory Committee, which was formed at Berdahl’s request, began its work in September 2000 to study and recommend solutions to the current problems with the campus job classification and compensation systems. The committee, co-chaired by Martha Fateman, director of Central Computing Services, and Calvin Moore, chair of the Mathematics Department, worked with a sense of urgency to develop recommendations for meaningful changes to the campus compensation system, calling on staff to identify the most critical problems in Berkeley’s current job classification and compensation systems.

The committee’s recommendations — eight in all — were based on extensive research, staff input and a series of public forums held across campus over the last academic year.

“The campus is very serious about staff compensation and wants to fix the problem,” said Fateman. “It will have to happen over several years, because we didn’t get here overnight.”

“This is an iterative process,” added Moore. “As we bring titles into something comparable to the marketplace, it will become easier. This is a start.”

The lag in salaries on the Berkeley campus compared to market rates grew in part out of the university’s stringent budgets and pay freezes of the early 1990s, the compensation committee noted. Berkeley never fully recovered from those lean years, in part because salary levels were not restored in subsequent years and, in part, because of the extraordinarily high cost of housing in the region.

Cost-of-living and regional pay levels in the Oakland metropolitan area are higher than every other area of the state except San Jose and San Francisco, the report noted, which means that Berkeley will face more of an uphill battle than most other UC campuses as it struggles to close the gap in staff salaries.

Between 1991 and 2001 — based on a comparison of U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics and pay increases on the Berkeley campus — the campus’s salaries fell behind nearly 7.5 percent, the report said, and it would take approximately $30 million to bring staff salaries across-the-board up to competitive rates.

The salary lag will not be overcome without additional support from the state, Berdahl said. While the campus is disappointed in this year’s budget outcome, Berdahl said he will work with other chancellors, the Office of the President and the UC Board of Regents, to seek more funding from the state.

Other suggested improvements
The advisory committee also recommended rebuilding Berkeley’s job classification system from the ground up to create broader job “families” with fewer job titles within each classification. A less cumbersome system, tied more closely to prevailing job classifications and salaries in the external labor market, will help managers respond to the often fast-changing staffing needs of many operating units, the report noted.

To provide more flexibility and promotional opportunities, individual job titles would also be associated with wider salary ranges so that employees could enjoy a longer line of progression in their career paths without going through frequent reclassifications along the way.

The Compensation Advisory Committee recommended that the new compensation system be fully designed within 12 months and implemented within the following 12 months.

Other key recommendations of the new staff compensation report included a plan to decentralize salary budget authority and give campus units more control over hiring, compensation, equity increases and attrition. Delegation should be directed to the lowest level managers within each departmental organization and in areas in which there is a critical mass of employees, the report stressed. Only those who are fully trained and certified to make hiring and salary decisions, rather than the incumbents of particular staff positions, would be authorized to carry out those responsibilities.


Full report of the Compensation Advisory Committee, and Chancellor Berdahl’s response


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