UNC Chapel Hill is will send workers home two hours early Oct. 22, hoping to ease congestion on a campus that will host its first Thursday night football game that evening.
But workers will then have to make up the time, and that isn’t sitting well with some.
“There are a lot of hourly people here on campus that have kids, or [elderly] parents, or second jobs,” said Richard Silc, business officer with the Odum Institute for Social Science Research. “To me, they’re making the this big decision based on an ESPN payment and the consideration for the worker bee is secondary.”
The Tar Heels host Florida State Oct. 22 at 8 p.m. Employees who usually work until 5 p.m. will leave at 3 p.m. The mandate is expected to affect about 11,500 workers.
For years, UNC-CH shied away from hosting a Thursday night game because of the potential disruption to the campus. Officials agreed to host the game this year in part because it will be held during fall break.
The primetime, national television broadcast brings with it an avalanche of free publicity to the football program and the school.
State policy dictates that employees make up time they don’t work, said Brenda Malone, UNC-CH's vice chancellor for human resources. Employees can use vacation time or start work earlier, stay late or work through lunch during the other four work days that week to make up the time, Malone said in a campus memo.
In an e-mail, Malone told me this:
Because University employees are also employees of the State of North Carolina, we are required to follow state policy and practice in this situation. Under these circumstances, it is inconsistent with state policy to pay employees for time that they don’t work or take leave. Therefore, employees are being asked to either use a flexible schedule to make up the two hours that week – start work a little earlier, work a little later, or work through part of their lunch hour – or use available leave for those hours. Available leave options could include vacation or bonus leave, compensatory time or flexible furlough hours.
We chose to take this step only after full consideration of all options. Our goal is to minimize disruption to employees and allow them to safely exit campus -- thus avoiding the anticipated traffic congestion before the game. We believe that changing the time the work day ends is a prudent and responsible step to avoid this potential problem for our employees. We have provided two months’ advance notice to employees; plus, the game is scheduled during Fall Break, which will ensure that there is no negative impact on students or interference with the academic schedule.
The decision has tongues wagging on campus.
As head of UNC-CH’s Employee Forum, a campus worker advocacy group, Tommy Griffin has gotten an earful on this issue. He's sympathetic, but also sees the benefits the game can bring.
“I know a lot of employees are upset about those two hours,” he said. “But [the game] is something good for campus that will bring a lot of revenue, so I’m not too upset about it.”