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Thursday, October 06, 2022

OPS workers not reimbursed for time missed due to Irma

After UF canceled classes for four days due to Hurricane Irma, hourly paid workers will not be repaid for time lost.

These employees, referred to as OPS, or “Other Personnel Services,” workers, are paid by the hour and are not guaranteed benefits like other full-time employees, said Jason Fults, the co-chair of the Alachua County Labor Coalition.

Jodi Gentry, the Vice President of Human Resources at UF, said OPS workers only get paid for time worked and are not eligible for paid leave, as stated in their work agreement.

“It’s a long-standing practice, not only at the University of Florida, but it’s consistent throughout the state university system,” she said. “It’s a condition of their employment.”

OPS workers approached Fults about not receiving pay, and he has been communicating with Gentry since. Fults said he was confused as to why UF couldn’t pay the workers when they had budgeted for that pay already.

“UF is not a factory or a restaurant or something like that that had to close, like it didn’t have any revenue during that time.” he said. “They’ve already taken the tuition from the students.”

He said UF does not treat OPS like valuable employees and sometimes keeps them as temporary workers for years on end.

Santa Fe College, where Fults works as an employee, paid workers for the week off during Hurricane Irma, he said. Though Gentry said a state law mandates hourly workers are only paid for hours worked, Fults wants to know if more can be done.

“If that’s the only justification, this is the way we’ve always done things, then that’s not acceptable,” he said.

Gentry said it’s against the state’s regulation to offer paid leave.

Fults said many OPS workers live paycheck to paycheck.

“So when you’re just barely getting by and kind of paying your bills, and then you basically are required to take off three-fifths of your work week unpaid that you didn’t budget for, then that starts to put people in a difficult position,” Fults said.

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When OPS workers approached human resources, they were referred to the Aid-a-Gator program.

President Kent Fuchs wanted to develop a program to help affected employees, including OPS employees, Gentry said. People can request assistance for up to $1,500 per person.

Ryan Morini, the associate program director at the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program, said he’s gotten used to UF not paying OPS workers for time off.

He said not paying for time off during the hurricane adds hardship.

“It basically boils down to things that seem like profit margins even though that’s not what it should be, but that’s what seems to motivate a lot of decisions that get made.”

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