Campus union responds to outsourcing statement from higher education, state

Campus union responds to outsourcing statement from higher education, state

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United Campus Workers, which has protested Gov. Bill Haslam’s outsourcing plan for months, on Thursday called a joint statement on the plan by state and higher education officials “propaganda.” The statement “would be a welcome update on the fraught and at times, clandestine process,” but instead is difficult to…

United Campus Workers, which has protested Gov. Bill Haslam's outsourcing plan for months, on Thursday called a joint statement on the plan by state and higher education officials "propaganda."

The statement "would be a welcome update on the fraught and at times, clandestine process," but instead is difficult to understand, according to the union's statement.

UCW claims about 1,600 members statewide, including 800 in Knoxville — many of them University of Tennessee employees.

On Tuesday, Terry Cowles, from the state's Office of Customer Focused Government, met with UT President Joe DiPietro and David Gregory, acting chancellor of the Tennessee Board of Regents, to discuss the plan, which would outsource maintenance and management of state-owned buildings, including those on public college and university campuses.

The same day, union members delivered a valentine to DiPietro's office urging him to opt out of the plan, and DiPietro said in his State of the University address he is concerned about the plan like many others.

The joint statement from Cowles, DiPietro and Gregory was released Wednesday, saying a third-party study will verify the cost analysis in the state business justification. The officials also said state colleges and universities will be included in the process, but still have the option to opt out and that "no current qualified and productive facilities management employee will lose their job as a result of a contract."

But the union on Thursday questioned various aspects of the statement, saying the only tangible thing in the document is that a third party will study the business justification of the outsourcing plan.

The union asked about the job security the statement promised, asking: "Where in the world are savings going to come from?"

UCW members are also worried about the point when campuses can opt out because state and higher education officials didn't indicate how the process will work, what the benchmarks and timelines are and whether there will be public participation.

" No meaningful democratic inclusion has been offered so far by either the Haslam administration or the campuses for a decision that will affect every county in Tennessee, potentially tens of thousands of jobs, will allocate untold millions of dollars to a private-sector contractor, and par for the course, could effectively eliminate public control and oversight," the union wrote.

More details as they develop online and in Friday's News Sentinel.


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