Work-hour limitations holds strong implications

More than 3,000 students working on-campus jobs might have a harder time making ends meet this semester due to the implementation of Central Michigan University's new, federally mandated work-hour limitation.

According to a news release from CMU outlining the changes, non-benefit eligible employees include student employees, temporary staff, graduate assistants, Global Campus adjunct faculty and less-than-half-time fixed-term faculty members.

Provost Michael Gealt recognizes these limitations might cause some difficulty in staffing, but said they're necessary, both to comply with the law and to cut costs at the university.

"As we limit work hours, it causes issues for how we're going to get help in busy areas such as the library," he said. "But the law is the law, and the budget is the budget."

Data provided by Lori Hella, associate vice president of the Human Resources Department on campus, said CMU employs 3,845 students, 272 temporary staff members, more than 500 graduate assistants and Global Campus adjunct faculty members, and 94 fixed-term faculty members.

This totals more than 5,300 workers who are not eligible for benefits.

The changes are to keep up compliance with federal health care reform requirements, which state that all employees working more than 30 hours per week must be provided health care coverage, and work hours for non-benefit eligible employees – even those working in multiple departments – must be capped at 50 hours per two-week pay period.

This transition has been in the works since June 2013. It officially went into effect this month.

Though this limitation poses problems for some departments that are now short-staffed, other organizations are concerned that the work limitations are unrealistic.

Graduate students employed by the university are paid via salary, yet are now limited to 25 hours of work per week in order to comply with the regulations. This poses a problem, according to Graduate Student Union Vice President Ben Fortin.

"(The GSU) does not believe the policy is realistic," Fortin said. "We agree in principle, but the reality for our members is very different. Many GAs, particularly those who are instructors of record, cannot realistically comply with 25 hours. Grading in particular is a burden."

Fortin, who also acts as the bargaining chairman for the GSU, said attempts to compromise with the university fell on deaf ears.

"In bargaining, we attempted to achieve health care for our members, but were unsuccessful," he said. "The university refuses to invest in its graduate students in that way, and that was disappointing. As a result, we will actively grieve any case of a member who is having to work more than 25 hours. This is the only possible response to ensure the university is serious about its 25-hour limit."

CMU's Global Campus, which has a pool of between 800 and 1,100 adjunct faculty members ready to teach a course when called upon, is feeling the burden of having to limit hours, too.

"The limitations are causing us to have to recruit more adjunct faculty because we need to have more availability to teach since they have limited hours," said Shellie Haut, director of licensure for Global Campus. "It imposes additional requirements of recruiting and the time involved that it takes to accomplish recruiting and find qualified potential applicants."

Depending on the popularity of a course, additional faculty might have to be hired and trained, which will pose a time management challenge, as each potential faculty member's application must be reviewed. However, Haut said Global Campus is learning to deal with the limitations.

"Whenever you have these restrictions, it does create complications for employers to manage through it, but we're dealing with that right now," she said. "Some adjunct faculty will be impacted more than others"


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