LTEs search for solutions with Union

by Micah S. Berken, Campus Writer
The Badger Herald, November 07, 2002

Ian Bloczynski has worked as a custodian at the Memorial Union for over eight years and recently was told he would have to reapply for his position because his allotted hours as a limited term employee (LTE) had run out.

Wanda Ashman has worked at the university for over nine years as a "trainee."

Labor activists expressed these concerns and others to Memorial Union director Mark Guthier and his staff Tuesday afternoon.

Specifically targeted was the question of what defines essential, and therefore permanent, staff.

Using Bloczynski as an example, activist Tony Schultz asked, "What classifies essential staff? There's a constant need for custodial staff in the Union. There should be permanent positions for permanent work.

LTE is an unfair classification. It denies them pay. It denies them benefits," Schultz used Bloczynski as an example of a flawed system:

"Ian here has been recycled and reclassified."

Schultz explained later that by keeping employees at LTE status they are essentially disabled from receiving work benefits or representation. LTEs are typically hired to work 1043 hours, and then must apply for permanent status or face reclassification in another position. LTEs are offered a health package, but many find it unaffordable.

Ken Gibson, representing the Union, partially agreed with the analysis, saying, "There are some things we really want to look at."

Gibson went on to say his colleagues were looking into ways to redefine LTEs as permanent employees.

"It's really good to hear that you're working on it," said Bloczynski. "It's encouraging news."

Another Guthier aide explained, "This is a state thing. It's not university. It's a personal choice as to when they want to be considered for the permanent hiring process. We're just following the chancellor's guidelines."

Bloczynski replied, "I know that process, but I'm amazed at the number of people who don't know. To most people it's a mystery."

Schultz and Multicultural Student Coalition representative Youssef Sawan also questioned the number of minority students being hired in permanent positions.

"LTEs are people of color. Permanent employees are white," said Sawan.

Guthier agreed this was an issue.

"We're very conscious of the problem," said Guthier, "and I think we've made great strides. Four to six of the LTE conversions [to permanent status] were minorities."

Despite the quiet atmosphere at the meeting, Schultz said he still found the meeting to be just another passing of the buck.

"We're ping-ponged around," Schultz said. "The regents don't want to deal with it, John Torphy doesn't want to deal with it, and the Legislature doesn't want to deal with it."

Young specifically cited Assembly bill 646, which states that anyone working for six months in the past two years as an LTE should be considered a permanent employee. This would enable these employees to collect benefits, representation and consideration for upward mobility.

Shultz said Rep. Jean Hundertmark, R-Clintonville, and chair of the Assembly of Labor and Workforce Development Committee, refused to hold a hearing on the bill.

"It's very patronizing," said Schultz, referring to his struggle with local legislatures.

"The state is supposed to represent us."

"The state should be a model of employment. Instead there are over 12,000 LTEs that are being reclassified over and over again to be kept at a lower cost. These state workers are being treated unjustly."

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