Meeting today (July 1) via conference call, West Virginia Universitys Board of Governors authorized action to seek a ruling on salary guidelines defining beginning pay for classified employees. The boards action met with strong support from classified staff leadership at WVU . The University employs more than one-half of the classified employees in West Virginia higher education.

In 2001, the Legislature approved a new classified salary schedule to increase pay scales, based in part on recognition of seniority. WVU adopted a plan in the fall of 2001 which was consistent with the salary structure set by the Legislature. Subsequently, the Higher Education Policy Commission directed institutions to ensure that new hires are paid at the minimum level of the schedule, orzero step, effective July 1, 2005.

However, because of consecutive years of budget cuts, some current classified employees remain below zero step.

WVU officials contend the HEPC directive to adopt the increases by July 1 conflicts with state law.

We believe the authority to establish salary policy rests solely with the board of governors, not the policy commission,said Gary Rogers, WVU vice president for administration, finance and human resources.The legislation passed in 2001 includes a provision that makes payment of the minimum salaries subject to availability of funds. The state has not been able to fund the schedule, so we are asking for flexibility so we can give raises to all classified employees, rather than concentrating only on a portion of employees, as would result under the policy commissions approach.

Last month, WVU asked HEPC to clarify the guidelines.

The policy commission adopted a resolution allowing schoolsboards of governors to delay implementing the guidelines, but requiring them to obtain a legal ruling on the issue.

Accordingly, WVU will seek a declaratory judgment which should help clarify this legal question for the University, HEPC , and other public colleges and universities.

Along with WVU s Board of Governors, other parties to the suit include WVU Staff Council and some WVU classified staff employees.

I strongly believe that all WVU classified employees, including those at our regional campuses, should be entitled to benefit from a salary increase,said Paul Martinelli, classified staff representative to WVU s Board of Governors.Its important that the BOG protect seniority as provided for by the salary schedule, and the goal should be to provide pay increases to all classified employees, not just new hires or those below the zero-step entry rate.

WVU College of Law faculty members Robert Bastress and Franklin Cleckley will be handling the matter for the University.