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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