By Lani Richardson, Retired UC Coordinator, Teamster and Organizer with the UC Administrative Professionals Network
One of the most important distinctions between policy-covered workers (like UC administrative professionals) and represented workers* (at least those who are Teamsters in the clerical (CX) unit that I used to belong to) is that the Teamster-represented workers not only have a guarantee to be informed if their work is not up to par, but more importantly the opportunity to make corrective measures to improve.
Although UC has policies that are supposed to give all employees the same opportunity for improvement, many of the policy-covered employees I’ve talked with have experienced (or at least know of) colleagues who can attest to the fact that these policies are not often followed. Sadly the opportunity to improve upon one’s work performance is oftentimes brought to their attention during an annual Performance Evaluation (PE), which in turn can affect their wage increases.
During PEs many policy-covered workers have been told that they “need to improve on certain duties.” In some cases, it feels like salt being poured into a wound. The reason for this is that some workers have never been given clear instructions about their actual job duties or expectations, or they were not given any notice of potential issues prior to their PE. Others have never received the necessary training to satisfactorily perform all of their expected duties and have even been denied when they have asked for specific training to help with their overall performance.
Again, UC policies are in place that allow staff to request and receive training so they can improve themselves and advance in our careers at UC, but since approvals are based upon the “operational needs” of each department, they are not guaranteed approval nor is the impacted staff person guaranteed an explanation. This is in stark contrast to represented employees — as is the case with my former CX work group, who operates under a union contract — where, if requested, departments must state the reason why training was not provided. If the represented employees feels that s/he was improperly denied training, they may request further information to determine if workload, staffing or favoritism issues exist through their union contract. These same requests can also be made if an employee receives a poor PE.
What does all of this mean for those staff who are only covered by policy? It means that without a union contract, they have no control over pay raises, professional development or job security. It means that long-term success and career growth can end up being less about ability or work ethic and more about relationships or currying favor. It means that a worker could potentially be missing out on thousands of dollars in compensation throughout the course of a career at UC.
“Policy covered” staff work right alongside people at UC every day who don’t have this problem because opportunities to receive training and improve performance are written into their union contract. It’s about time UC administrative professional staff take advantage of protections that exist only through a collective bargaining agreement.
*IMPORTANT NOTE: “Represented” workers are covered by applicable policies AND by the rights negotiated in their labor contracts. They have a two layers of protections. Only a represented employee has the effective ability to collectively negotiate with UC to improve pay and other work issues and a union contract that protects these gains.