UT facilities employees hold silent protest during trustees meeting

KNOXVILLE (WATE) – Outsourcing has been a discussion point for the past few years at the University of Tennessee as a way to save money. The change could take away jobs from UT employees who have depended on them for years.

It’s a complicated issue and UT says when it comes to outsourcing, the university can either accept part of it, all of it, or none of it.

More: State government outsourcing hearings scheduled this summer

A small group of employees stood in silent protest as two from their group spoke in front of the Board of Trustees on Thursday.

“We just want our voice heard. We just want somebody to hear us when we say we care about our jobs,” said Bill Mills who works in UT’s paint department.

The group held signs reading “Facilities = Family” and “Vols Source Local.”‘

“The auditorium they had this meeting in today, somebody had to get the air on. Somebody had to clean the carpet, empty the garbage, and I painted that auditorium, me and my crew did,” said Mills.

Many of the facilities employees worry that if outsourcing does happen at UT, there will be a big change.

“You’re not going to know the people that are around your children. You’re not going to know the people that are in your building, in your office when you’re not in your office, but you know us. You see us every day,” added Mills.

“Does UT look at things more than just a dollar and cents way?” asked Joel Rummage, a foreman in UT’s landscaping department.

UT President Joe DiPietro says financial advisors are looking at the numbers and the contract, but he says the state has given them no rush. So an outcome could be made by late summer or early fall.

“Our finance people have to figure out, does it make sense financially? Can we save money doing it? And you need to be reminded that we’ve been guaranteed from the state that we will be very cognizant of keeping the employees, keeping their compensation and benefits at similar levels,” said President DiPietro.

While employees like Mills and Rummage wait for a decision, they hope university leaders take their lives into account.

“I hope they say, ‘We don’t want to change anything because what we have here is better than anything we could find anywhere else,'” said Rummage.

“In today’s time, where am I going to find a job, if I lose my job here at the University of Tennessee? You know, I gave them the best years of my life and I have a lot left,” added Mills.

These employees say they hope leaders remember their families and children as well.

“I’m not a machine that you turn off at the end of the day and flip on the next day. I go home to my family, and hopefully I can go home to my family with a paycheck in hand,” said Mills.

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