Sept. 7, 2007
By Mary Reed
Ohio University employees represented by AFSCME Local 1699 began informational picketing on the Athens campus Thursday to protest recent layoffs.
Off-duty workers gathered at three locations, including the Alumni Gate, to hand out flyers asking passersby to call President Roderick J. McDavis to voice support for bargaining-unit employees.
"We just feel that the cuts were unfair and the cuts will adversely affect the health, safety and welfare of our students," said Local 1699 President Dave Logan. He said bargaining-unit members are upset about a budget reallocation within Finance and Administration that resulted in additional administrative salaries.
"We understand their concern and frustration with the difficult budgetary decisions that have been made in building this year's budget," Vice President for Finance and Administration Bill Decatur said. "But those decisions reflect very important priorities of the university and the Division of Finance and Administration."
Decatur explained that this year's budget includes funding to address important campus safety needs, including adding three police officers and a safety and risk management position.
"There are reallocations universitywide to fund high-priority initiatives consistent with Vision OHIO priorities," he added.
Twenty-two maintenance and custodial positions with incumbents have been eliminated recently, but it is unclear how many people will actually lose their jobs after displacements and filling of vacancies. An additional eight vacant positions were eliminated. If additional relevant vacancies occur, affected employees will be recalled, according to the current collective-bargaining agreement.
According the University Human Resources, two of the 22 employees bid on and were awarded equivalent-paying positions. Nine exercised their displacement, or bumping, rights; two of the nine still face the choice of layoff or entering the utility worker classification. Of the 11 other employees, four have chosen to work in the lowest part-time classification, utility worker, and seven have chosen layoff.
Earlier in the summer, when the need to make layoffs was announced, Jim Kemper, associate vice president of finance and administration for human resources, told Outlook the decision was a difficult one.
"The university has experienced such immense loyalty and trust from its employees, and that makes this very hard," he said.
Director of Employee and Labor Relations Linda Lonsinger said the university is trying to do all that is possible to ease the transition. She credited AFSCME for making compromises in its contract that helped prevent even more layoffs.
The university as a whole faced a budget reduction of $2 million during the current fiscal year as a result of rising health care, utility and wage costs. In addition, fewer employees than expected opted for the Early Retirement Incentive Plan. Support units such as Finance and Administration, which includes the departments of the affected employees, must reduce spending by 1.76 percent this year. In addition to the mandated cuts, which totaled $532,000, the unit reallocated $770,000 to address significant needs, according to Decatur.