University News

U. to extend ombudsperson services

By
Staff Writer

The University will grant all unionized staff members access to the ombudsperson, reversing a previous Faculty Executive Committee proposal from last month, wrote Paul Mancini, University director of labor and employee relations, in an email made available to The Herald.

“I have been informed that the University will be extending the services of the ombudsperson to unionized staff,” Mancini wrote in an email to Karen McAninch ’74, a business agent for the United Service and Allied Workers of Rhode Island chapter.

The decision alters an FEC recommendation from last month that excluded union members from ombudsperson access but expanded it for undergraduates, graduate students and non-unionized staffers, The Herald reported in April.

Approximately 550 employees — one-fifth of University staffers — are union members, McAninch said, adding that this group includes dining, facilities, public safety and library employees.

The ombudsperson purview will extend to all members of the community no later than this fall, said Ruth Rosenberg, University ombudsperson. This change departs from the previous timeline, which said the expansion would happen by the 2014-15 school year, The Herald previously reported.

The decision is still tentative as there has yet to be a formal announcement, Rosenberg said.

Currently, Rosenberg meets with post-doctoral students and faculty members to discuss issues including workplace problems and academic disputes.

The proposed changes would allow unionized employees to seek the services of either the ombudsperson or the shop steward, McAninch said.

Unionized employees should reach out to the union shop steward rather than the ombudsperson with workplace grievance issues, McAninch said.

“One concern … is that what if a manager hears that you went to the ombudsperson?,” McAninch said, adding that this could present an issue with the current managerial oversight.

Most other peer institutions offer ombudsperson service to unionized employees, Rosenberg said.