Local News

UNC students, maintenance workers hold sit-in

Posted April 7, 2011
Updated April 8, 2011

— Maintenance workers and students at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill held a sit-in Thursday to protest proposed changes to employees' work schedules.

Dozens of maintenance workers and students rallied on the steps of the South Building at noon. Students chanted, "Workers' rights are human rights."

UNC administrators want to end an option for maintenance employees to work four 10-hour days each week and return them to five eight-hour days. The university started the program in 2008, when gas prices hit $4 per gallon. About 70 of the 181 people on the maintenance staff take advantage of the option.

"I support these guys because I know it works for some of them who are taking care of children, elderly parents, working a second job, chasing an education, whatever," said electrician Chuck Brink. 

"It's the only thing we have left that's holding morale together," Brink said.

Other workers say they use the extra day off to take care of personal errands that otherwise would cost them a personal day. "If I got appointments, I can use that day off to set up appointments like the doctor," said Benny Burton.

Sit-in protests UNC budget cuts Sit-in protests UNC budget cuts

Burton used a day of leave to participate in the sit-in. He said the longer work day means maintenance can be done outside of the hours when campus facilities are busiest.

"You can get more done in a 10-hour period than you can in an eight," said Burton, who has worked for UNC for six years. "It not only saves for us, but it will save for the university."

Chancellor Holden Thorp said as the campus tightens the belt – the university has eliminated 31 maintenance positions over the past two years – it needs to be able to cover shifts five days a week. "We can't do it all the time, because it's hard to get coverage," he said.

A memo to employees explained that the overall staff reduction meant there were shifts where too few people were on the clock. Returning all workers to a five-day-a-week schedule will make scheduling more efficient, the memo said, without adding to the university's $645 million backlog in deferred maintenance.

Thorp said he feels for the workers. "We're not able to accommodate folks right now, and I hate that," he said.


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  • Plenty Coups Apr 8, 2011

    Vrodhunts-"pay state workers far below the private sector"
    "PLEASE show me the figures on this once you take ALL benefits into account."

    I'll gladly show you the statistics. Doesn't sound like you'll like them though. Let's start with teachers, in NC you can expect to start out at around 31K. The average college graduate makes 50K. (19K less!)

    NC Teacher pay. For the last few years, its been frozen. (No increase for experience)

    Ahh, but what about the benefits? NC Benefits aren't that great, see link below:

    Studies that disproves myth that public sector pay/benefits is better after allowing for education level:

  • RaleighHunts Apr 8, 2011

    "@ artist... working 4 10 hour days a week is a cushy bene?"

    YES, yes it is. When you give an employee the OPTION of working 4 days a week instead of 5, that would be considered a HUGE benefit to many... most people have no say over their hours, work far MORE hours than that, and work AT LEAST 5 days a week.

  • RaleighHunts Apr 8, 2011

    "pay state workers far below the private sector"

    PLEASE show me the figures on this once you take ALL benefits into account.

  • Tax Man Apr 7, 2011

    And if any of these employees were doing this on work time they need to be immediately terminated for cause and never allowed to work for the state again! Just who do they think they are? They should be happy to have the jobs in this market! Whiners!

  • Tax Man Apr 7, 2011

    Hey, you are the employer - tell your employees when and where to work. Not their choice! If you want them to work five days a week just schedule them for that. They don't like it, they can go somewhere else to work. Plenty of folks in line for these jobs! Employees need to be flexible to the employer's needs or go start their own business. And what are these students doing? Maybe we should use free student labor to keep the campus clean and in good repair - like a work study program!

  • Plenty Coups Apr 7, 2011

    "Any thing to get out of class! Workers protesting should find another job, someone would love to have their job, no matter what the hours are............waaaaaaaaa waaaaaaa waaaaaaaaa!!!!!!!"

    Anything to get out of paying taxes!!! waaa...waaa...waaa... Justify breaking promises and contracts to pay state workers far below the private sector so Joe Taxpayer can save $7.50.

  • bncnunn Apr 7, 2011

    And if you would bother to ask the employees, this isn't just about UNC employees, this was for all state employees who are tired of having to take whatever cuts come down the wire. This was for all of the employees that don't make the six figure salary. As a matter of fact, there were employees from all departments (clerical, administrative, etc). SO make sure you note that in your discussions.

  • Plenty Coups Apr 7, 2011

    More state workers need to do this. The state will only continue to take advantage of you especially with the current crop of people (Republicans) at the State Legislature. Think they'll EVER vote you a raise or give you back what benefits you once had? They won't even propose it. Never have, never will. People got what they voted for in the last election.

  • bncnunn Apr 7, 2011

    Oh and one more thing, the employees were actually contacted by the students to do this protest b/c even college kids can see that the treatment of these employees is not just. Oh and did I mention the fact that all of the employees were threatened by having the head of facilities services request lists of all employees who put in leave for today and for the names of people who attended the protest and the employees that did work today were told that they were not "allowed" to attend during there breaks (when they are not even on the clock!). So much for employee rights. Maybe its time for the SEANC (the state employees "union") to step in.

  • bncnunn Apr 7, 2011

    Meanwhile the Chancellor gets paid more every year and he doesn't have to worry about prices for the cost of living because he gets to live for free in a house paid for by tax payers and tuition and doesnt have to even pay for his utilities (and these employees are the ones that maintain the house and the grounds that he lives in). But yet he gets raises all of the time. This is not about UNC saving money to him, it about being in control. Otherwise they would be willing to show the employees on paper how they can save money by making this move.