Technicians Re-assigned to Groundskeeping: Why does the UA Administration Want Skilled Craftsmen to Trim Bushes and Mow Grass?

Over the last two months, University of Alabama administrators have reassigned dozens of technicians to temporary groundskeeping work, mowing lawns and raking leaves. Is this to save money? Hardly. Skilled craftsmen are paid $17 per hour and above. Groundskeepers are typically paid $8-9 per hour.

Reassigned workers cannot take vacation leave when they are ordered to groundskeeping. If they call in sick, there must be a signed note from their doctors.

How many people are affected? Lots. About 50 or so in Building Maintenence, 26 in Electrical, 30 in HVAC, 30 in A&P.

But there is more than money at stake at here. Several staff members, speaking on condition of anonymity, have told us the re-assignments are intended to “bully and intimidate.” University officials want their employees “to know who is in charge.” Taking a skilled electrician out of his trade and assigning him to pull weeds is demoralizing and hardly and cost-effective. But it does send a message.

What’s up? We don’t know for sure. But it follows a pattern. University administrators apparently want to create a flexible and pliable workforce in which all of the parts are more or less interchangeable. “Workers” are simply a commodity, like anything else, to be used or discarded based on cost-benefit analysis. People who don’t like being treated like a commodity can leave.

We believe the current policy is intended, in part, to weed people out, especially people who have been here for years. They will be replaced by lower-wage and younger employees, or their jobs will be outsourced to private companies.

In any case, the new policy of threat/firing/and intimidation through reassignment is having the intended effect. Several senior craftsmen have already left; others are preparing to leave. The mood among workers generally is rock-bottom.

We call on our readers to discuss the possibility of forming an association, so that, together, we can protect our benefits and jobs. Let’s do it — before it’s too late.

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