UC Berkeley staff members to move to new off-site center

1608 Fourth Street is the location of  the new Campus Shared Services Center.
Gracie Malley/Staff
1608 Fourth Street is the location of the new Campus Shared Services Center.

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Staff members from disparate campus departments will find themselves in an off-campus building beginning in September as part of a push to streamline UC Berkeley administration.

A lease has been signed for a Fourth Street building that will become the Campus Shared Services Center and house finance, human resources, information technology and research administration staff from different departments together, campus administrators announced Wednesday. The shared services project works within the larger Operational Excellence initiative, a controversial effort to cut campus costs and save $75 million annually starting in fiscal year 2016.

The shared services project budget was approved March 8 by the Operational Excellence Executive Committee and estimated total expenses to range from $18.62 million to $20.72 million. However, the budget did not include the cost of the ten-year lease arrangement, which will total an additional $26.2 million and include building amenities and improvements, shared services implementation team communications manager Sybil Wartenberg said in an email.

“Given the importance of the project, the campus will pay for the lease as an investment in the initiative,” Wartenberg said.

The center will have a shuttle service, gym, showers, new technology and bike storage for staff. Staff members will transition into the building in phases — about 170 staff will begin working at the center in 2012, and 500 to 625 staff will eventually work there over the next 24 to 30 months, according to the shared services website. But the building’s distance from the campus and the impacts of reorganization have caused concern for staff members.

At a Friday shared services update meeting for staff, Wartenberg and project manager David Declercq fielded inquiries from staff members who questioned the decision to establish the center off-campus.

“In terms of whether or not there was space on campus … what we were told was no, there was not,” Wartenberg said.

Staff members also raised concerns over how their jobs would be impacted by the new center.

Staff who are not supervisors and spend more than half their time on “shareable work” will be reassigned to the center, according to the April shared services Workforce Planning Recommendations Summary. “Shareable work” refers to services that staff carry out in separate departments that have enough similarities to become centralized. Wartenberg said in an email that some department jobs that involve both “shareable” and not shareable work will need to be restructured.

“In terms of the fractional work — the hybrid positions — it’ll be a case by case basis of what that will look like,” she said at the meeting. “Obviously we think over time there will be people who self-select out of shared services … but there is not a plan to do a mass layoff.”

Whether the center will work towards meeting savings expectations also remains to be seen.

Estimated savings for shared services have changed dramatically from an April 2010 report by consulting firm Bain & Company, which projected that shared services would save around $18 million per year after having reached a steady savings rate three years after implementation.

A Feb. 27 report then lowered savings expectations to “hard savings of $12 million to $15 million per year, and the final March 8 budget dropped projections much more dramatically to $6.5 million in 2016. From 2016 to 2020, the savings are expected to increase each year and peak at $14.3 million in 2020.

Wartenberg said at the meeting that the shared services team has been receiving about 25 emails a day from staff members who have questions.

“We have heard that there are a lot of challenges in getting communication from the top to the front lines on staff,” she said.

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  • 007

    anonstaff #007
      Do you notice the 170 employees starting in 2012 (bet it is after the July 1 2012 second tier pension start date for most) then staff triples in 2013-2014 when second tier status is guaranteed?  What do you want to bet that the folks on campus who get whacked in Operation Elimination (OE) will have a tuff time getting their old/new job back?  The folks that cooked this up (Mitt ?) are wicked and smart.  Look forward to meeting them in hell!  Who would have thought that the day would come that dedicated and feircely loyal/ grossly underpaid UC life time staff employees would be put out to pasture just because the state that they served owed them a pension that some fat cat regents gambled away on Wall Street.   What a terrible turn of events for what was once the greatest research university in the world.


    “The shared services project budget was approved March 8 by the Operational Excellence Executive Committee and estimated total expenses to range from $18.62 million to $20.72 million. However, the budget did not include the cost of the ten-year lease arrangement, which will total an additional $26.2 million…”


  • Gregjennings

    Why would anyone want to stay on the Berkeley campus? It’s a shithole compared to Stanford

    • Fail Troll_is Fail

      implying that Stanford is hiring thousands of staff?

  • AnonStaff

    I have worked at UC Berkeley for over 20 years and have learned to be very skeptical about any “improvements” that are handed down to us from above.  Despite claims of transparency and participation from staff of all levels, when you look at the lists of OE participants, almost every one is a director or a high level manager; there are next to no front line staff.  The way that most of us got to participate was to provide OE with a bogus questionnaire where we attempted to estimate how much time we spent on each administrative task.  The new Shared Service assignments will be based upon the results of this questionnaire, even though it is likely that the results are not an accurate assessment of how we actually spend our time.  Take a look at the new 4th street digs on Google Maps and you will see  that there is some sort of factory and a train track right next to it, with a few abandoned vehicles parked nearby.  Staff will have to deal with pollution from the freeway, lack of intellectual contact provided by the campus (libraries, free lunch time concerts, public presentations, etc.) and the few, overpriced dining options will be overwhelmed by staff during the lunch hour.  Shared Services is set up so staff work more than full time for the same pay and their workloads will be determined by SS management, which will promise faculty more than their staff can easily deliver in order to prove to them that they will get the same level of service they once got.  Those of us who remain on campus will spend much of our time explaining in detail what the SS staff will need to complete, as they will have no direct connection with departmental activities, yet will be expected to process things for us.

    • Matt J. Goren

      The team is just as skeptical of the early reports as you are.  Shared Services is not being based on that questionnaire, it is based on hundreds of hours of individual assessment with department administration and staff. The team is also helping departments make sure that when some staff move to the new center, the departments don’t have any service gaps. 
      Matt Goren
      OE Student Communications Coordinator

      • AnonStaff

        I wasn’t talking about the Bain report, I was talking about the questionnaire that went out in December 2011…..there are plenty of flaws in this most recent attempt, and yes, there will be plenty of service gaps for the reasons outlined above.  Finely crafted “talking points” won’t change reality.