Author Archives for Utah Public Employees

Department of Administrative Services Telecommute Jobs

The Department of Administrative Services (DAS) presented on Monday, February 4, in the Infrastructure and General Government Committee.  DAS indicated they have plans to increase the number of remote jobs, which will give workers the opportunity to telecommute.  DAS also explained this will possibly create additional job opportunities in rural Utah.

DAS also presented their intent to create a culture centered around technology, and to make employees comfortable connecting with others on Google Hangout.  Employees that telecommute will also be involved with the office to ensure that the program functions correctly.  Leadership and employee development will also become a focus to help remote employees want to work hard and effectively while they are away from the office.  UPEA will continue to update you on this issue as we learn more about the telecommute initiatives.

Legislators Consider Changing the Tier II Multiplier for Public Safety and Fire Fighter Employees

Senate Bill 129, sponsored by Senator Wayne Harper (R) aims to increase the multiplier for Tier II Hybrid plan members from 1.5 to 2 percent for public safety and fire fighter employees (PS/FF). This will mean that employees can retire after 25 years of service at 50 percent of their salary.  Currently, PS/FF can retire after 25 years of service at 37.5 percent of their salary.  For members on the defined benefit plan, it will increase the non-elective 401(k) contribution from 12 percent to 16 percent.  Senator Harper stated this bill will help close the gap between Tier I and Tier II while still saving money compared to Tier I.

During the Retirement and Independent Entities Appropriations committee on Wednesday, January 7, this request for appropriations was presented by Senator Harper, Dan Andersen, Executive Director of the Utah Retirement Systems (URS), and Dee Larsen URS General Counsel.  The committee was educated on the history of the Tier I and Tier II retirement systems.  Today, URS is almost 90 percent funded today.

Because URS is doing so well, there has been conversations about increasing the Tier II retirement benefit to help with recruitment and retention problems.  Public Safety is having difficulty with recruitment and retention of employees and they believe that the lack of benefits in the Tier II retirement system plays a large factor in this issue.  In the past, public safety officers have always had a richer retirement system than other public sector employees. When Tier II was created, it put both PS/FF employees and all other public sector employees on the Hybrid plan at the same 1.5 percent multiplier.  SB129 aims to bring more balance between Tier I and Tier II PS/FF employees.

On Monday, February 11, this bill was heard in the Senate Retirement and Independent Entities standing committee. UPEA representative, Kendle Zdunich, spoke in favor of the bill stating that “providing a stable retirement package will help recruit and retain employees where longevity in specialized jobs is critically important”. SB129 was favorably passed through the committee and will be heard on the Senate floor.

UPEA supports SB129 and will continue to update members on the bill’s progress. Click here to view the presentation slides and learn more.

Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control Budget Presentation

Salvador Petilos, the director of the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (DABC) presented to the Business, Economic Development and Labor Appropriations Committee.  The presentation included where DABC plans to use the funds they are asking to be appropriated this year.

The DABC is split into three main operations:

  • Regulatory, which deals with licensing and compliance;
  • Education, which runs the Parents Empowered Program; and
  • Retail, which is over distribution and sales.

Mr. Petilos reported how much of the funding will be used to build or renovate stores.  Currently, the stores in Sugar House and downtown Salt Lake City are overused.  They serve a large population, which makes it difficult to run efficiently.  An expansion of the downtown Salt Lake City store is essential.  In the coming years, Petilos mentioned that it will be difficult to build stores in the downtown Salt Lake area due to its population.

Representative Patrice Arent commented that during the holiday season there are long lines at the stores that can go around block.  Mr. Petilos agreed that staffing is major issue within DABC and the agency will use some of the appropriated money for pay increases and to incentivize recruitment and retention. The current retail employee turnover rate is 80% and the DABC is 19 stores behind schedule.

Dr. Wilko, a staff member of the Business, Economic Development, and Labor Appropriations  Committee explained that if the Committee decides to appropriate funds that are non-lapsing, the DABC could meet their goals more efficiently and solve many of the issues facing the agency.  Senator Davis agreed that by having only appropriated lapsing funds over the past few years has hindered the DABC rather than helped.

DHRM Executive Director Stated His Top 3 “Human Capital Concerns” for the 2019 Year.

The Utah Department of Human Resource Management (DHRM) reported that their critical human capital concerns for the upcoming year include creating and maintaining quality management, recruitment, and retention.  DHRM’s Executive Director Paul Garver, acknowledged that two of these issues, recruitment and retention, are compensation driven, while quality management may be obtained through other means.

Garver reported that DHRM has been studying the private sector benchmarks to attract employees, and they are looking at companies like Adobe, University of Utah Healthcare, and Financial Services Company for successful strategies.  A possible solution should be ready by the end of the fiscal year.  As for retention, Garver stated that we must “find the value” of working for the state of Utah, and it may be different for every employee.  DHRM has started implementing Employee Value Proposition surveys for current state employees.  These surveys will serve to identify why employees stay with the state of Utah, rather than finding why they leave, as an exit survey does.

To address the lack of quality management practices for the state of Utah, Garver plans to create a competency framework and implement quality manager training within all departments. Managers will be expected to meet the standards within the framework to increase leadership excellence.

UPEA will follow any DHRM legislation that may affect public employees. Please contact your UPEA representative with any questions.

HB51 – Free Market Protection and Privatization Board Revisions

The House Business and Labor Standing Committee met on Wednesday (1/30/2019).  Representative Kay Christofferson presented first substitute House Bill 51, Free Market Protection and Privatization Board Revisions.  HB51 sought to change the size and membership of the Board, as well as other technical and conforming changes.  The original version of HB51 removed the exemption on higher education from participating on the Board, however, this substitute did not include that provision.

HB51 reduces the size of the Board from 17 members to 11 members.  Rep. Christofferson stated the 11 members will allow for greater participation and the ability for decisions to be made with a quorum present.  The proposed Board would be comprised of 3 members from the Legislature, 1 member who represents the state’s largest public employee association (UPEA), 1 member who represents state management, 4 members to represent the private sector, and 2 members to represent the League of Cities and Towns as well as other special districts.

During the Committee hear some lawmakers were concerned with the Board’s perceived lack of power.  These legislators want the Board to have more influence over the issues and agencies that come before it, rather than simply the power to make recommendations. Rep. Marc Roberts asked if “there is a plan to go through each agency step-by-step to deliberate whether it should be privatized.”  Rep. Christofferson explained that the Board has already addressed the agencies and that while he is not against giving the Board more power, he also did not want to give the appearance that state government is encroaching on the public or private sector.

Todd Losser, Executive Director of UPEA, spoke on behalf of the bill and thanked Rep. Christofferson for his work in maintaining UPEA’s voice on the Board.

Ultimately, the lawmakers were split on whether they should favorably pass this bill out of committee.  According to House Rules, if there is a tie, a motion fails.  The bill may be heard in the committee in the future, and UPEA will continue to monitor HB51.

PEHP, Health Insurance Premiums, Transparency, and Cash Back Options

Health insurance premiums increased this year by 4.35%, which is $12.2 million. The legislature has indicated they will fully fund the increase.

In addition, PEHP is also focusing on transparency, and has developed a new cost tool where members can “find and compare options” that will give a breakdown of costs, common ranges, prices of doctors, locations of service, and more. This tool is beneficial to members because you will have the ability to compare options and make the most educated and cost-effective choice about your care.  This tool is available on PEHP’s website.  This new feature also has a green phone with a money sign above it.  When you are comparing your choices, these signs indicate there is a cash back incentive.  Members can call PEHP to see how much cash back is available.  Depending upon the choices, some members can receive up to $500 on a cash-back option.

PEHP is focusing on transparency, choice, and effectiveness for members.  UPEA will continue to keep you apprised of any program changes.

Understand the Issues: UPEA’s Vigilance Protects Utah’s Career Service System

Utah’s Career Service System covers most of the state’s “merit” employees, and guarantees fair compensation, retention based on performance, and access to a speedy grievance process, among other important rights.

In place since the Utah Public Employees’ Association (UPEA) fought for its creation more than 50 years ago, the Career Service System, outlined in the Utah Personnel Management Act (67-19-3.1), is key to a career in public service, yet state workers never should take its guarantees for granted.

Each year as the legislative session approaches, UPEA demonstrates vigilance in its efforts to protect the Career Service System from attempts to whittle away its protections. It foresees no such challenges so far for the 2019 Legislature, but as recently as 2016, lawmakers considered Senate Bill 176, which, if it had passed, would have empowered the Utah State Board of Education and the Department of Human Resources Management to offer financial incentives for some information technology and financial employees to voluntarily relinquish their merit status.

Across the nation, merit-based employment for state workers is under attack.  Arizona and Colorado are among states that have started to phase out some aspects of their merit systems.

Any effort to diminish or alter merit status afforded under Utah’s Career Service System would change merit employees’ status to “at-will,” meaning they could be dismissed at any time without warning as long as their firing did not violate state or federal law.

UPEA believes merit-based employment is vital to most categories of state workers because it prevents a “spoils system” under which politicians award government jobs as political favors and fire employees as political retribution.  Utah’s Career Service System ensures a stable, high-quality workforce that operates equitably and free of political coercion.

The Association answers critics who argue merit employment restricts hiring and prevents firing of poor performers by advocating for improved supervisor training and proper use of performance management tools to address problems.

UPEA considers the Career Service System one of the Association’s key accomplishments, and it will continue to advocate for state employee rights. For more information, call (801)264-8732.









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