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Succotash my Balzac, dipshiitake.

ERC(rap)

If you work at the University of Tennessee (or if you just clock in for eight hours a day), you should know that the Employee Relations Committee, headed by Chancellor Loren Crabtree and Alan Chesney, is considering ways to cut spending by 5% or more for the upcoming fiscal year. Their leading proposal at the moment is to eliminate the paid week off work for employees during the week of Christmas (it's supposed to be an arbitrary holiday break, but it always happens the week of xmas). They propose to continue with the week-long closing, but they will no longer pay employees for it. Employees may elect to use annual leave or go unpaid.

This policy will force employees to go unpaid for a week at the most expensive time of the year, or sacrifice traditional vacation time in order to receive pay. Unfortunately, many UTK employees normally use annual leave for a vacation in the Summer, generally to spend it with children and other family members who are not in school during that time. Many take budget vacations to a relatively nearby coast, or enjoy the Summer in the mountains. This will no longer be an option for employees.

The University has had a long-held policy of paying employees for time they would normally work during an administrative closing. This policy would be changed by the new proposal, opening the door for UTK to withhold pay from employees for days of work missed during any administrative closings. Recently, these closings have included more than one weather-related incident and a week-long closing during which UTK had no new operating budget from the state.

It is not uncommon to hear UTK employees describe UTK as a good place to work, not because of the pay, but because of the benefits. UTK has not offered its employees a cost-of-living adjusted raise this year, but it's employee health insurance premiums have increased while the benefits have decreased. UTK also increased its monthly charge for access to employee parking areas. Employees now pay $25.30 per month for parking.

Now, the ERC is considering a plan to eliminate the paid week off at Christmas. If anything changes, I think that UTK should remain open during that week, giving employees the chance to choose between work and vacation, instead of choosing between no pay and vacation. That won't happen, though. The University already saves a bundle by shutting everything down during that week, even though they still pay employees.

UTK wastes money all over the place, but employee wages is not one of those places. If you're taking away paid time off, give it back to us in wages.

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