Monday, September 30, 2013

New HEO Time Sheets are an Assault on Professionalism

The PSC represents thousands of professional staff across CUNY, including over 100 here at Brooklyn College. These members serve as Higher Education Officers (HEO’s). HEOs work in the registrar’s office, financial aid, run programs, advise students, and perform a variety of administrative roles such as managing outcomes assessment and international study.

As with many other people working at CUNY, they have been subjected to overloads, speedups, and low pay over the last few decades. More recently they have been on the front lines of implementing the two  major CUNY Central initiatives, Pathways and CUNY First, while chronically understaffed.

About 10 years ago some HEO’s began to complain that they were being forced to work beyond their contractual obligation of 35 hours a week. There have always been periods, such as registration time, when people were expected to temporarily work longer hours in exchange for comp time. More recently, however, these expectations have grown and the comp time hasn’t always been forthcoming. In addition, people in many HEO title s are legally entitled to extra overtime pay for any time worked over 40 hours, according to federal labor laws. CUNY was refusing to pay this. The PSC sued in federal court over CUNY's violation of the FSLA. We won back pay and legal fees against CUNY for their failure to pay time-and-a-half for hours worked over 40 hours for "non-exempt" employees, who are generally Asst. to HEO and some HEO Assistants.  At about the same time, a group of HEO’s at LaGuardia Community College filed a grievance that resulted in an arbitration decision against CUNY in 2007. The decision required CUNY established a procedure for comp time for work beyond 35 hours for all HEO’s. This new system is complicated and there are many case by case negotiations required to implement it.

One aspect of this new arrangement is that mechanisms needed to be created to document the working of extra hours for the purposes of either accruing comp time or overtime. From the beginning of this process the PSC accepted that the employer has a legal right to ask employees to document their time. The union has insisted, however, that CUNY management negotiate the process for documenting time with us and that it not be onerous or intrusive, in keeping with the professional status of our members.

Unfortunately, and consistent with CUNY’s current top down and deprofessionalizing management style, CUNY has unilaterally implemented a new time sheet system for HEOs and CLTs without consulting the union. This new system is both onerous and intrusive, as well as inefficient and inaccurate. The new time sheets require extensive documentation of exact times that people report to their offices, go to lunch, and leave. It does not take account of the fact that some HEOs often work outside their offices, attending meetings on campus or even at other CUNY campuses and so are not “at their desks” to sign in. The time sheets require that people deduct time for lunch, even though some HEOs are regularly given assignments that force them to work through lunch. Even more outrageous is that the software is designed to prevent people from being able to record more than 35 hours in a week unless a supervisor has preauthorized it.

This new system is time consuming and inefficient. Time sheets are filled out either manually or electronically then submitted to managers, who have to reenter the data into CUNY first.

CUNY wants to have their cake and eat it too. They want to be able to penalize and micro manage HEO’s and CLTs but they don’t want to pay them for the work they actually perform. This is also part of a broader agenda to deprofessionalize our members across the board. CUNY management seems to hold most of us in contempt, they ignore the academic judgment of the faculty, in favor of a Board of Trustees that is almost totally lacking in academic credentials and appointed primarily to manage cut backs and streamlining.  Adjuncts are treated with appalling disrespect. Forced to reapply every semester for positions some have held for decades, being expected to show total flexibility while being denied access to unemployment insurance and any kind of job security.

HEO’s are outraged by this move. Hundreds have signed up to organizing committees across the university to fight this assault on their professional status. Last week the University-wide Academic Advising Council Regarding passed the following resolution denouncing the new system:

Resolution of the University-wide Academic Advising Council Regarding CUNY’s New Timekeeping Procedures

September 23, 2013

Whereas CUNY’s Central Administration is implementing a new rigid and cumbersome timekeeping process across the University for HEOs and CLTs without prior consultation with the Professional Staff Congress or the CUNY college human resources directors;


Whereas the new timekeeping process is completely impractical for accommodating the variables that go into the work day for professional staff at a public university;


Whereas the new timekeeping process is tantamount to assembly-line workers “punching a clock” and is therefore immensely demoralizing to professional staff members;


Be It Resolved that the University-wide Academic Advising Council strongly opposes the new timekeeping process and urges the University to maintain the current timekeeping methods.

Faculty and Professional Staff union leaders have begun meeting with local college presidents to express their dismay over the situation and the union’s leadership has spoken directly to the Chancellor about this, pointing out that it will take a major reworking of this problem to restore the morale and confidence of the professional staff.  In the coming weeks you will be hearing more about how you can support HEO’s in their efforts to fight this system. It’s essential to all of us that CUNY management get the message that they cannot just unilaterally impose their will on our members and expect to get away with it.

From CUNY First, to Pathways, to the system of time sheets, it’s time we start asking some tougher questions about who is really running CUNY and what their motivations are. Respecting the professional judgment of our members and working collaboratively and constructively for a better CUNY doesn’t seem to be on their agenda.

1 comment:

  1. The Emperor’s New Time Sheet

    The HEOs and CLTs at Brooklyn College received a memo late in August informing them that they have to sign a new electronic time sheet starting September 5. HR scheduled some meetings to discuss the process and implementation. Many HEOs and CLT’s attending expressed their anxiety and doubts about the new time sheets and the process. Some of the objections were that the time sheets had to be done electronically, but then had to be printed and approved by a time keeper and a supervisor. Another objection was that the time sheet is for a two week period while there is a monthly report that one sends to HR with the annual, sick and other time.

    There were a lot of questions about the reason for this process, but the answers were not forth coming. There were even more questions about reporting the actual time worked. Yes, many HEOs and CLT’s work way beyond the 35 hours they are supposed to. Many pointed out that the nature of our jobs does not allow us to take a lunch break because there is too much work to stop. Others pointed out that we do not hold a regular 9-5 job because at different points in the semester people have to work longer hours and not always at the same post.

    What was evident at this meeting is that HEOs and CLTs are not viewed as the professionals we are. The complexities of our jobs are not recognized. Nor are we asked to join a dialogue or conversation about the working conditions and the best way to deal with it. Our intellectual capabilities and decision making abilities are supposed to be placed on hold until someone higher up tells us whether they approve the extra hours required to do the job.

    There were HEOs and CLTs that explained that because their particular assignments they do not have the flexibility to take a lunch hour at the “normal” lunch hour. They were not asking to be compensated, but neither have they wanted to report a lunch break that they did not take. Likewise it is not always possible to anticipate that you need to work longer hours, but the situation often arises around registration time and right after classes begin. The services offices, OAS, ESC, Registrar, Financial Aid among others, are usually the ones affected. CLTs have their own challenges. It is apparent is that the model CUNY has in mind is an old fashioned model based on an industrial workforce working in a factory style setting.

    We are told that as professional we should work until the work is done. But no one defines or explains what this means exactly. Does it mean that you do the work of four people who are no longer part of your team and were not replaced? Does it mean that you become robot like? To treat HEOs and CLT like that is a missed opportunity and a huge waste of human resources.

    It is time that CUNY engages in an honest and transparent dialogue with its workforce. The business of education is far more complex than Johnny or Jenny goes to school to learns his/her ABC’s. It takes team effort to achieve the ultimate education goal. In that team effort HEOs, CLTs and all other members of the CUNY community are stake holders. We all deserve to be treated with respect, or as my grandmother Graciela would say, with minimum basic courtesy. This new time sheet, which seems to be an edict from the emperor, shows neither.

    Anselma Rodriguez
    HEO Alternate Delegate
    Brooklyn College
    Member of the Legislative Committee