For as long as she can remember, Julia Beltrano has been a “joiner and a doer.”
The Technical Specialist Manager in the Department of Visual Arts was only 14 years old when she joined the board of directors of a not-for-profit organization – and she has volunteered with many others since. Wherever Beltrano identified something that wasn’t working for her, instead of complaining, she raised her hand to ask what she could do.
Beltrano steps into the role of President of Western’s Professional & Managerial Association (PMA) this summer having asked that same question. She follows Melanie Molnar from the Faculty of Education to the position.
“I got involved because I had questions and I couldn’t find information. Instead of asking, ‘Why isn’t this communicated this way’ or ‘Why am I not aware of these things,’ I joined the communications and marketing committee a few years ago. I thought, ‘I have the skillset and I can make things better – what can I do?’ I realized I didn’t know what I was missing,” Beltrano said.
What she was missing, it turns out, was a “community” that provides advocacy, support, professional development and opportunities to connect with colleagues, in addition to perks and discounts for members. Beltrano appreciated the opportunity not only to give back to her new-found community, but also to connect with and learn from diverse colleagues across campus.
PMA is “Western’s best kept secret,” Beltrano said, one she wanted to spread, far and wide, once she learned what the association has to offer. She has since worked to revamp communications and outreach initiatives for the association. Since 2014, PMA membership has grown from 640 members to almost 800 out of 1,200 eligible employees at Western.
Engagement is improving, Beltrano continued, which is good news, given that the association is heading into negotiations in the fall. The process is generally amicable with the administration; Western wants happy employees and PMA members are often regarded as “the glue” that holds the university together. There are shared goals at stake, she noted.
“The (negotiations) committee is working hard to examine data from sources such as the WeSpeak survey, in addition to a survey sent directly to our membership to help us assess their priorities when it came to compensation, benefits, and work-life balance,” said Beltrano.
“Some things are not big surprises, like work-life balance, a few requests about wellness spending accounts. Essentially, what we are doing is aggregating all that data and demographic data. (Human Resources) works in partnership with us on this and provides a lot of data in terms of how many of our members are close to retirement age, how many of them are just starting their careers, do we need to focus certain benefits for certain groups. We are also looking at things like educational funding and funding for dependants.”
The PMA survey was completed by roughly half of the association’s members and the committee is preparing for negotiations that reflect the needs of its members. To ensure equity and fairness, the association is examining information from similar groups in other institutions and other employee groups on campus.
“PMA members are so diverse; there’s academic counselors, avian research personnel, people who keep scientific labs running. In every single department, there’s someone who might not know they are PMA but goes above and beyond and works positive outcomes so this is really about valuing the contributions of those people,” Beltrano added.
“Our members are working behind the scenes and on the front lines to make sure we continue to fulfill the university’s values of excellence in education, research and service. We’ve always had a positive professional relationship with the administration and past negotiations have been amicable. Ultimately, we have the shared goal of having Western continue to be a wonderful place to work, where employees are valued, compensated fairly, and where wellness is a priority.”
The 2018 PMA negotiations committee is co-chaired by Leslie Gloor Duncan, past PMA President and Associate Director (Transition, Leadership and Enrichment) at the Student Success Centre, and Deanne Babcock, Director Research Finance, who also chairs the PMA personnel policies committee and previously served as the association’s Treasurer.