Chancellor Berdahl Speaks to Employees Regarding Grievances

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In a year of budget cuts and paltry salary raises, Chancellor Robert Berdahl answered questions from UC Berkeley staff yesterday about wages and increased workload.

Berdahl offered no immediate solutions to employee grievances, and audience members moved from laughter to tense criticism of his policies during a speech sponsored by the Berkeley Staff Assembly.

"We take pride at public universities that we are doing more with less," he said. "But we have probably overdone this. At some point there is no more give."

Responding to complaints that UC Berkeley faculty salaries could not support families, Berdahl said faculty income will only increase if employees move up to higher paying positions within the university.

"We don't begin to pretend it is easy," Berdahl said. "The way people can better be able to provide for their families is through (career) advancement. Our hope is that we can provide the opportunities and means by which people can obtain advancement."

He pointed to a new UC Berkeley program, the Career Development Opportunity Program, which allocates up to $5,200 per applicant to pursue further job training.

UC Berkeley has also tried to shoulder the burden of increased health care costs for the lowest paid workers, Berdahl added.

But Berdahl said students may have to bear the burden of increased fees to compensate for the low levels of state funding.

"Students will have to face the reality that they must bear their share of the burden," Berdahl said.

Many audience members said the proposal was insufficient, pointing out the necessary function low-level employees perform at the university.

"I don't think it is responsible for the university to say that the solution for people is to be promoted," said Michael-David Sasson, president of the local chapter of the clerical workers' union. "There will always be need for entry-level work. The complaint is that those positions have constantly over decades lost purchasing power."

Most low-level faculty received only 1.5 percent salary increases this year.

Despite demands for more immediate results, Berdahl said he could only promise salary increases if the university can provide the state Legislature with data showing the need for them.

UC Berkeley is conducting a study of the issue, he said.

"This will simplify what we have and give us a market analysis that is genuinely comparable," he said. "At this point anecdotal evidence is not evidence."

The study will be completed by December 2003 at the latest. The university will use it to persuade the state Legislature to increase salaries in the future, said David Moers, assistant vice chancellor of human resources, who is overseeing the study.

Berdahl's proposal met with some approval.

"I really have a huge confidence in the (people conducting the study)," said Pat Lavelle, of the UC Berkeley human resources department. "It may not roll out in the timely fashion employees want to see, but the grievances expressed by employees are real concerns."

Berdahl answered questions about the high cost of child-care and employee requests for an early retirement program.

The chancellor said there was "very little else" the university could do to reduce the cost in child-care at UC facilities besides raise money to build new facilities.

UC Berkeley child-care centers such as one at Clark Kerr Campus cost $1,200 per month.


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