After firings, union members take to Hart’s front yard for protest

(Kathryn A. López/TTN)

Approximately 80 Temple affiliates flooded Rittenhouse Square in Center City Wednesday afternoon to protest outside President Ann Weaver Hart’s Temple-provided home.

The anger erupted after 19 employees and members of Temple’s American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees were fired at the end of May.

The firings occurred due to a 5 percent budget cut on individual departments, said university spokesman Ray Betzner.

“To meet the reductions in the operation budget for the coming year, each college and department at Temple has taken specific steps, and in some areas that has included restructuring and layoffs,” Betzner said. “It’s also important to note that those individuals who were laid off and were not hired back for the restructured positions will receive first priority for any Temple positions that come open for which they’re qualified.”

Nine of the employees have been rehired for other positions and the other ten permanently fired, said Temple Association of University Professionals President Art Hochner.

Another source of controversy is AFSCME’s accusation of the violation of the contract agreement that major changes will be discussed with the union in advance as well as the way the former employees were treated upon their dismissals.

“Long-term employees were escorted out of their building by security guards, and locks to their offices were changed,” TAUP’s board members posted on the TAUP Web site. “This is a heartless way, especially in the midst of a recession, to treat dedicated workers.”

AFSCME is now in the process of filing a grievance against the university.

“Layoffs are never easy, and care was taken to be as humane as possible,” Betzner said. “All layoffs were done in compliance with union rules, including those rules on notice and severance packages.”

Hochner estimated nearly 100 other firings throughout the university occurred of employees who are either not affiliated with a union or are members of unions other than TAUP and AFSCME.

Union members said they are also concerned with what will happen to the work that was being done by the terminated employees, Hochner said.

He added, “This is a cruel and inhumane way to treat employees.”

Kathryn A. López can be reached at kathryn.lopez@temple.edu.

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