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Sunday, January 23, 2022

After years of discord from UF Other Personnel Services workers, the university is working to address the issue but not in a way that guarantees their jobs. 

In April, UF Human Resources Services began asking all departments to review their use of non-student hourly OPS staff because they found that some were in temporary positions for decades, Steve Orlando, a UF spokesperson, said. Non-student hourly OPS employees are at-will temporary workers who aren’t graduate assistants, faculty members, students or health center residents. UF employs 3,916 non-student OPS workers, Orlando said.

“It’s not a good place to have employees,” he said. “We needed to clean things up.”

Human Resources told all departments to take one of three actions: transition their OPS employees to full-time staffing, end the position or transition the employee to TempForce, a staffing firm in Gainesville that connects employees with corporations, Orlando said. 

UF hires temporary employees for one-time jobs, Orlando said. Temporary employees work on special projects, help reduce workload, cover staff on leave or work on an as-needed basis. They are “hired with no expectation of continued employment,” and don’t receive the same benefits as full-time positions, such as paid vacation or sick leave, according to the OPS policy.

OPS workers at UF have been vocal about their displeasure with the way administration treats them. The Alachua County Labor Coalition pushed back after UF refused to pay OPS workers for time missed due to Hurricane Irma and again during Richard Spencer’s appearance at UF. In July, about 40 OPS workers protested outside UF President Kent Fuchs’ house after hearing about a supposed mass firing of OPS employees.

There are nine different categories of non-student hourly OPS workers, four of which have a set hour limit that employees can’t exceed. Nearly 300 OPS employees at UF have exceeded their limit of 4,176 hours, Orlando said. 

Some OPS employees have been in what was intended to be a temporary position for 10 to 20 years, he said. 

Now, colleges are planning  to address those workers who have exceeded the hourly threshold, Orlando said. There is no set end date when the transition needs to be completed. 

Transitioning the employees to TempForce is one option that departments have for their OPS workers. TempForce helps corporations find temporary employees and provides some limited benefits for workers that OPS employment doesn’t offer, Orlando said.

Through TempForce, employees can qualify for paid time off after completing 1,200 hours, according to the TempForce employee benefits program. Workers can also purchase health insurance through TempForce. 

UF has to pay TempForce an administrative fee that varies depending on the hourly pay rate set by UF and the position type, Orlando said. 

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Jeremiah Tattersall, the Alachua County Labor Coalition union liaison, said he would like to see UF use that money to transition more OPS workers to full-time staff. 

“With the amount of money UF has to pay TempForce, why can’t they just give that money to this person to hire them as a full-time employee at UF,” he said.

UF isn’t using the money it pays Tempforce to hire OPS workers as full-time staff because it costs less to use TempForce, Orlando said. 

Tattersall believes UF’s new decisions about OPS employees brings both good and bad results. While some OPS workers have become full-time staff, others are losing their jobs entirely, he said. 

“The University of Florida is going about this wrong,” Tattersall said. “We don’t agree with the policy of firing long-term OPS workers because we think that anyone who’s worked for UF for more than two years should be a permanent employee.” 

Contact McKenna Beery at mbeery@alligator.org and follow her on Twitter at @mckennabeery

 

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