The quarrel over wage losses for OPS workers at the University of Florida continued last month with both sides meeting to discuss potential compensation.
In September, OPS employees missed a week of work due to Hurricane Irma. Following the missed days, the University of Florida announced that it would not be financially compensating OPS employees for the time missed. Similarly, these employees will not receive pay for the hours lost due to the campus visit of white supremacist Richard Spencer.
There are currently thousands of OPS workers employed by UF. They are paid hourly and are therefore not guaranteed full-time benefits, including paid leave. This is a condition mandated by their contracts.
Despite being an hourly worker, on average a UF OPS worker may spend two to three years in their position. Additionally, 51 percent of their employees are full time and for most the job serves as their primary source of income.
The Alachua County Labor Coalition has been advocating on behalf of OPS workers by asking UF to compensate workers for the missed days. A Change.org page was also created by the coalition to gather signatures for a petition they say will be delivered to university president Kent Fuchs, UF Human Resources Director Jodi Gentry and university vice president and the Board of Trustees.
At a November meeting of the UF Faculty Senate, ACLC members asked the senate to support the OPS employees. The conversation has now been extended to how UF will respond to missed hours in the future. Faculty Senate Chair David Quillen commented on needing to re-evaluate the fairness of the OPS fee model.
Quillen also noted that it was a question of the resources needed to make the change and added that the question is very pressing to the faculty and Fuchs.
Gentry at the meeting remained firm on the lack of paid leave. According to her, paying the hourly workers for time other than their hours worked is against state regulation.
Jason Fults, co-chair of the Alachua County Labor Coalition, said OPS employees are hurt by more than the occasional UF mandated canceled workday. According to The Alligator, the hourly workers do not receive pay for sick days or the Thanksgiving holiday. This is a hardship for the OPS workers who, in the words of Fults, are “living paycheck to paycheck.”
Following Hurricane Irma, Fults pointed out that Santa Fe College was able to compensate its part-time employees for their missed days. Santa Fe Director of Human Resources Lela Frye emphasized the importance of the compensation for the employees because the missed time was “out of their control,” according to The Fine Print.
Frye also pointed out that Santa Fe lacks the amount of financial resources UF has.
According to literature distributed to members of the labor coalition, OPS workers turned to charity and food banks because of the financial loss following the missed days in September. The employees are eligible for Aid-A-Gator, a micro-grant program offered by UF, but the compensation it provides is limited.
The Alachua County Labor Coalition continues to promote their petition on their Facebook page and urge UF to pay OPS employees for missed days in the future.