Low pay, major problem for WVU BOG

MORGANTOWN — WVU classified staff numbers are shrinking while employee pay is failing to adequately grow, the Board of Governors’ (BOG) classified staff representative told her BOG colleagues Friday morning.

The classified staff tally was 2,863 in 2014, 2,604 in 2016, and 2,241 this year, said Lisa Martin, senior special event coordinator for university events in the president’s office.

“This is an alarming amount considering the university continues to grow,” she said.

The staff includes 2,052 people on the main campus, 94 at WVU Tech in Beckley and 95 at Potomac State. Some are part-time, others are full-time. They are service workers, facilities workers, police officers, teachers and dining services workers.

While many factors have contributed to the loss, Martin said, low pay is one of the major problems. “We cannot maintain quality staff with the standards we have today. We’re losing and will continue to lose people to other employers.”

Annual classified salaries, she said, range from $18,477 to $76,908.

The pay scale, she said, must be fair, and provide yearly increases to bring employees into market range and offset income erosion caused by cost-of-living inflation.

Martin acknowledged that a new pay structure has been unveiled, and many will get an increase. However, to draw new talent, new hires are coming in at a higher starting wage while existing employees are still playing catch-up.

“Imagine finding out a new employee is making more than you even though you’ve been here much longer and have more experience,” Martin said.

The inequities won’t be fixed overnight but WVU is heading the right direction with the new structure, she said. “Regardless, we can do better and must do better for our classified staff.”

If staff reductions continue, she said, “How will West Virginia University keep up with the demands of the increasing student population and constant upkeep of our beautiful campuses?”

WVU President E. Gordon Gee acknowledged Martin’s concerns and praised the staff members for their work. The new pay structure, he said, reflects WVU’s determination to hire staff and faculty at market rates. “We made a huge mistake for a long period of time of not doing that.”

The new structure for classified employees reflects a process of moving toward performance recognition, he said, and he thanked staff for not resisting or trying to block the change. It’s leading to positive results for all.

Moving forward, Gee said, WVU will “continue to focus on “getting the right staff to the right place … with the right pay.”

Other BOG business

Barbara Boyd, WVU Tech Classified Staff Council president, updated the BOG on the move from the Montgomery campus to Beckley.

It’s a much smaller campus she said. “Finding rooms has been tremendously hard.”

But that is part of something more positive that offers tremendous opportunity: Enrollment is growing on the new campus. They have two rooms that will hold 100 students and this fall will have one that holds 50. “We’re severely hurting for computer labs,” an important issue at a tech school.

Boyd told the BOG that 50 percent of the classified employees chose not to move to Beckley, preferring to retire or seek work in the Kanawha Valley. “We’ve lost a lot of knowledge. … It’s been a tremendous challenge.”

The BOG honored former classified staff member Dixie Martinelli, who retired in January and stepped down from her BOG post.

Martin, her successor, told the BOG that Martinelli left a big hole to fill. “I think even Wonder Woman would have a hard time.”

Martinelli accepted a hand-carved wooden plaque from the BOG and said, “It was a great opportunity for me to represent the wonderful individuals. … I miss them.”

The BOG authorized WVU to enter into a lease agreement with WVU Hospitals for land now occupied by and adjacent to the Medical Center Apartments. The apartments will be demolished to make room for a 400-space parking lot. In exchange for covering demolition costs, WVU Hospitals will lease the land at a minimal cost.

This action was part of the consent agenda unanimously approved as a whole by the BOG.

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