Profiles In Collaboration: Yale University Library
|Union Co-Chair:||Maureen Malone Jones|
|Management Co-Chair||Diane Turner|
|Facilitator:||Debra Arcangelo-Vitale and Lorraine Skibitcky|
Library JDC clarifies paid time off policy
One early success of the Yale University Library Joint Departmental Committee (JDC) was improving how paid time off, such as vacations, holidays, sick time, and personal time, is scheduled. That was a particularly complicated issue since there are twenty-two different libraries in the system with a wide variety of expertise among the 300 clerical and technical employees represented by Local 34 of UNITE HERE.
Library managers and Local 34 leaders started their JDC in 2005 by surveying library staff about areas that could benefit from more communication and interest-based problem solving.
One conclusion from the survey was that there was no consistent policy on how staff could request and use their paid time off. It was being approved in different ways in different divisions around the library system. As a result, some staff felt that rules were being applied unfairly and some supervisors felt they couldn’t predict when people would be on leave and that it was challenging to keep their areas staffed. Disagreements between supervisors and staff rose up occasionally. In the old days these were handled by formal grievance and arbitration procedures. If the Library JDC was committed to improving efficiency, customer service and employee satisfaction, this issue presented an opportunity to achieve benefits very quickly.
A small workgroup including supervisors, union organizers, administrative assistants, catalog assistants and others tackled the challenge. They received training on interest-based problem solving and got to work, looking at data on schedules and how people used vacation and sick days. (Other workgroups are working on issues like manager training, effectively coordinating with outside vendors, and using paid time off.)
It wasn’t easy at the beginning, says Maureen Jones, a Library Services Assistant, who co-chairs the JDC. “The more difficult the problem, the more varied the interest,” she says. “It’s hard putting yourself in someone’s shoes. It was hard for supervisors to give up power. And it’s hard for some to assume power they haven’t had before. But this was the kind of inclusive approach that we needed.”
Diane Turner, Associate University Librarian for Human Resources, says the collaborative work of the JDCs yielded better results than if only supervisors had developed the policy. “It gave front-line staff a place at the table,” she says, “and that’s a much higher level of involvement. Those staff members are closest to the day-to-day decisions of what’s going on. This gives managers an opportunity to hear that first hand. The levels go away when you’re in a real dialogue.”
The end result, which the senior management of the library approved and implemented in October 2007, was a single clear set of best practice guidelines for supervisors to use across the library system. In addition, according to Jones, this work is being shared with JDCs in other departments around campus.
Most important perhaps is that both parties have a basis for better understanding in the future. Supervisors are sensitive to the needs of their employees, and clerical and technical workers are sensitive to the operational needs of their department and how absences affect their colleagues. As the committee’s written report says in its summary, “In the best practice there is open communication between supervisor and employee.”
Jones says, “I would tell anyone coming here that who they are and what they do is valuable – whatever it is they do as a cog in this big place. And what Best Practices does is reinforce that. Everybody plays their part and everybody has their voice.”
Turner says one lasting benefit is a more collaborative environment. “We want Yale to be the kind of place to resolve conflicts without it being a distraction,” she says. “We can have less adversarial relationships, build consensus, respect each other. Best Practices is Yale’s attempt at a different kind of relationship between management and unions - a way to solve problems without being competitive. We know it has been difficult, but it has led to some good work, and it’s a better workplace as a result.”
Last Updated: April 14, 2009 (kp).