A report proposing to pay living wages to all of the university’s full-time employees received overwhelming support at the University Council meeting Sept. 27.
The council’s action does not enforce the report’s recommendations, which include raising the salaries for the lowest-paid workers up to $24,000 per year, but it does send a message that the university community is behind it, said Nancy Felson, a representative of the Ad Hoc Committee on the Pay and Benefits of Low Wage Employees, which authored the report.
The report outlines 15 recommendations that would raise the lowest salaries by about 25 percent within three to five years, spur the study of staff salary compression and encourage regular and temporary workers to be allowed to pay for healthcare benefits on a tiered system, meaning the less an employee earns, the less they would pay for medical insurance.
“We wanted to do this in the spirit and in the philosophy that aligns us with Partners for a Prosperous Athens by making poverty diminish for workers at UGA,” Felson said.
The report was first presented to the council last spring as an information item but the council did not act on it.
Felson asked that the report come back to council for a formal endorsement.
The council formed the committee in March 2006 after two local organizations, the Economic Justice Coalition and the UGA Living Wage Network, asked the university to endorse a proposal for “family supportive wages and benefits” for its lowest-paid workers.
Tom Gausvik, associate vice president for human resources, chaired the 18-member committee, which included UGA faculty, staff, and administrators.
In its report, the committee said it “ultimately views increasing the wages of our lowest-paid employees as a matter of social and economic justice, just as much as it is good business practice.”
The university should ensure that no employee falls below federal poverty guidelines, the report adds, saying that “paying employees a fair and liveable wage will have many ancillary benefits for the community” including reduced costs for social services and health care, lower crime and reduced poverty.
In other action, the council voted to authorize a master’s degree in teaching English to speakers of other languages, and a master’s degree in plant protection and pest management on the Tifton campus.
The council also deactivated a minor in child and family development and a major in landscape and ground management.
The next council meeting is scheduled for Oct. 30 at 3:30 p.m. in Room 101 of the Student Learning Center.