UC Berkeley staff raise concerns over upcoming service center move

Gracie Malley/Staff

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UC Berkeley staff members and union representatives voiced their opposition to the proposed move of campus staff to the Campus Shared Services Center on Fourth Street at a press conference Wednesday.

The center will house human resources, house finance, information technology and research administration staff beginning in September as part of the Operational Excellence initiative — a controversial effort to streamline UC Berkeley administration and save $75 million annually starting in fiscal year 2016.

The concerned workers — who are representatives of the University Professional and Technical Employees Communications Workers of America, the Coalition of University Employees-International Brotherhood of Teamsters, and University Council – American Federation of Teachers — held their large banner and handed out fliers reading “Operation Elimination.”

Coalition of University Employees Teamsters member Juan Garcia, who works as an assistant in the UC Berkeley Graduate Division, said the latest phase of Operational Excellence may lead to layoffs, reduced resources, greater workloads and more mismanagement.

In an email, Shared Services Implementation Team Communications Manager Sybil Wartenberg said the initiative could not predict campus layoffs.

In a press release, UPTE-CWA local 9119 president Tanya Smith states that the estimated costs of $20 million for the move does not include the $26.2 million lease for the center, increased work for campus staff, and the loss of “face-to-face time … inclusion and diversity.”

“I think they have done a lot of going through the motions of getting feedback but it doesn’t seem at any point so far that any of the feedback … has registered,” said Chris Morrison, a campus computer resource specialist.

Morrison, who has worked at UC Berkeley for five years, does not believe the benefits the initiative estimates outweigh these disadvantages mostly because he doesn’t trust their figures, citing the fact that the 10-year lease agreement of the Fourth Street building was not included in the original cost of the plan.

“So what else are they not including when they are telling us how much they are saving?” Morrison said.

Morrison believes that if he were to be moved to the shared services center, his capabilities would completely change, dramatically altering his support for his clients. Clients currently have easy access to Morrison’s office and the support he provides, but he believes the move would turn support services into a call center, which is a “much lower standard.”

According to Wartenberg, the shared services organization is a part of the overall push for the best possible administrative services.

“While most of the CSS staff will be based in the new building, relationships are important to service and CSS staff will need to spend time and meet with the groups that they support on campus,” Wartenberg said in the email. “(W)hile the new space can’t replicate the campus, the CSS Center will draw from the Berkeley culture and will be staffed by a dynamic mix of individuals.”

Kathryn Klar, treasurer of UC-AFT and a lecturer in Celtic studies, sees two overarching problems in the new plan — one being the effect of an off-campus center on administrative tasks, and the other being the effect on the campus community as a family.

“What would you do in your family if … someone suddenly said ‘we are moving half of you to a place where you will rarely see each other again just because we just think it will be more efficient to feed you from Fourth Street?’” Klar said. “They ought to realize that they are breaking up a family.”

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  • BSalarm

    Grow up and quit being so clingy. You’re lucky to have a job at all. Why don’t you tell your woes to the millions without jobs who would be happy to have a UC job in Berkeley.

  • Current student

    unionized staff employees care about one thing only: their own paychecks

    • guest

       Breslauer? Is that you again?

    • Matthew Weber

      Please tell me more about working people from the vantage point of your 20 years on this planet.  Please enlighten me, Current student, with your vast experience and knowledge.  While you’re at it, I’d be very interested in your opinions on child rearing, home maintenance, and long-term romantic relationships, because I’m sure you have a lot to offer in those areas as well.

  • disgusted long-time UC worker

    It’s the same here in the UC Berkeley Library.  The library administration is wants to vastly scale back the branch libraries that serve diverse departments, faculty, students and scholars and say it will “save money” but they readily admit they’ll be spending millions on the process. They began the process with a “survey” that wasn’t widely advertised and came out right as everyone went home on summer break. 

    All of a sudden these administrators have money when it comes to “reorganizing.”  But when basic services are needed — like libraries that are staffed for reference and open for students to study — they plead poverty. The so-called “operational excellence” is total bullshit. It won’t save money — it will cost a bundle.  What management really wants is to create more controllable structures and more hierarchy. That won’t serve staff or students or the citizens of the state, but it will serve management, who will get to hire more of their own.

  • Sarashield

    I’m just wondering which Regent is getting the kickback on the $26 million lease. Bain already has $11 million and counting for this “cost saving” idea.

  • eyes open

    The real costs will “savings” will come from the fact that the recharge rate for this fantasy management exercise will be four to six times more than the current cost of doing the same task within a department.  So all departments will simply not be able to afford to use the “shared service”.  Thats right.  If you use IST’s recharge price schedule as a model and I do not think it will be far from that.  There will be not one department on this campus that will be able to afford this vast increase in cost to do business that in any way relates to this “shared service”.  Shared service is a money pit.  What I am saying is not even slightly an exagerration.  So far share services has not officialy anounced a recharge schedule and even though it is suppose to come at the end of August.  We will never see this.  If anyone reads their price schedule, it will be the show stopper. 

    • Anonstaff

      Departments will not be able to afford it unless they lay off more of the employees who remain, or find non-state funds to pay for their salaries.  This is why Shared Services claims there won’t be layoffs at the time Shared Services begins…..it will be a steady process as departments run out of money a couple of years down the line.  It will also be a way of forcing small departments to effectively merge into other departments, without having to go through the unpopular process of actually shutting down an academic program.  OE is hiring a cadre of organizational experts who will come to departments and help us all figure out what services to cut and who we can lay off.  Lucky us!

  • Incredible

    was this another recommendation by bain consulting

  • Guest

    Moving IT staff to the other side of town is just possibly the most ridiculous administrative idea to come to this campus in recent years. Have you ever tried to solve a hardware failure from 10 km away?

  • Anonstaff

    The metrics used to determine how many staff will be needed at the new 4th street center are severely flawed.  OE knows this, but is going ahead with the move anyway.  My guess is they will scale staff back until nothing is working, then the bright lights who came up with this idea will move on to new successes and the campus will quietly hire back younger, less expensive staff to take the place of the experienced staff who will be leaving. Chris Morrison is correct, OE had its instructions and intended outcome before it began; all of this talk about staff input is just window dressing, so they can say that they consulted widely and came up with the best solution.   If you look at the new positions related to Shared Services, most of the people they are trying to hire are PR experts, designed to make things look better to faculty so their nerves will be soothed, and “change management” experts, whose job it is to keep staff deluded and productive and accepting their fate for as long as possible, until the layoffs and work speedups begin.  We wouldn’t need all this calming down if we had actually had any say in these decisions.  I don’t know of a single front line staff member who thinks Shared Services will work.

    • the devil

      Electronics wiz, Earl Muntz pioneered this technique back in the 1950’s and it earned the label, “Muntzing”.  What Muntz did was to cheapen his product- the Muntz TV- by taking a prototype and snip out parts until it no longer worked at all, then put the last part back. Their motto and jingle, “There’s something about a Muntz TV”, could be heard sung on the radio throughout the day just like most commercials. That “something” turned out to be an  extremely low quality and frequently failing product. Muntz TV quickly went out of business and Muntz aspired to get in the Automobile business. Our highways would have been a bloodbath had he really kicked that off. So now, UC is going to do the same experiment as Earl “Madman” Muntz. There’s something about UC. Yes indeed.

  • UCadmins Hubris Has_no_equal

    The UC system- and campus-wide administrations consistently lie — about everything.
    Purported savings on this particular project only exist when one ignores the expense of leasing the building…

    In other words, OE can only present a budget surplus by ignoring the most significant project cost? LOL!

    The administration clearly thinks that faculty, staff, students and the public are about as stupid as a sack full of dirt.

    • the devil

      The public stupid? They elected Bush twice.  The population at UC can’t be compared to the general population on a whole- the kind of people who are looking up the salaries of public employees and gasping, exclaiming, “Our money…my god!”. These are supposed to be the best and the brightest.  There may be some maniacs here, but they are at least high-IQ maniacs. They’re paying 10 times too much and in the future will get only 1/10 the quality their money should be buying. Why does a texbook cost $100 and you may only use half of it for the course?

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