Roy Summerford


AUBURN -- Auburn University President William Muse announced measures on July 14 to address the concerns of Facilities Division and other maintenance workers who have asked for changes in working hours and conditions.

In a memorandum to all AU Facilities Division and other concerned employees, Muse said his investigation of the concerns raised in a meeting with approximately 300 workers on June 30 revealed areas for improvement of working conditions and relationships. But, he noted, his investigation did not show a pattern of racial or gender discrimination.

"While in any organization the size of Auburn University, there may be incidents that raise legitimate claims of racial or gender harassment or discrimination, the general concerns raised by Facilities Division employees do not appear to be of that character," the AU president stated.

"It is my observation that the issues and concerns expressed generally relate to problems of communication and management/supervisory interaction with employees," Muse added. He said intensive training is needed to address those concerns.

Agreeing with the request for more flexible work hours for custodial employees and several other concerns raised by Facilities workers, Muse also promised to improve internal communications and provide more career development opportunities for workers who maintain the university's facilities.

Muse said he is committed to the development of an environment which gives opportunities for employees to develop the knowledge, skills and abilities to compete for management and supervisory positions.

In pursuit of that goal, Muse said, he has asked Facilities Division administrators to develop a comprehensive management/supervisory training program and to develop a plan to provide more career and professional development programs for employees.

The first of those two steps would address complaints related to supervisory skills and communication and the second would enable employees to enhance skills necessary for promotion to supervisory or management positions.

Muse said he has been informed that most of the specific concerns raised by Facilities and other maintenance workers in recent months have been addressed. Discussing two of the remaining concerns, Muse outlined plans for the development of flexible work shifts for custodial workers and a plan that recognizes long-term employees for their years of service. He said he expects both plans to be in place by Oct. 1.

In the memorandum, which was posted in Facilities work stations and work sites, Muse said he has instructed Facilities to develop a more flexible work schedule with multiple shifts, with some custodial shifts starting work at 5 a.m. or 6 a.m. The plan would replace the current requirement of having all custodial employees report at 5 a.m.

Addressing requests for added compensation based on years of employment, Muse noted that progress has been made in the past year as a result of recent personnel plan revisions. Approximately 550 Facilities and maintenance employees -- virtually all in that category -- received raises to reflect local market conditions.

"I do agree with the concerns expressed for the need to address recognition of creditable university service," he said, adding that he has directed implementation of a plan to address the need.

Muse said he also examined requests to eliminate the unpaid meal period for custodians, who sought to shorten their workday by 30 minutes. However, he said, the meal break is consistent with the schedule for most other staff employees and is a necessary part of the work schedule. When combined with two 15-minute breaks in the work shift, the meal period provides breaks every two hours for the employees.

Addressing a fourth major point raised by the workers, Muse said a request contained in a proposed settlement petition from the employees does not provide sufficient information or justification for him to evaluate the request.

"As I indicated to you in our meeting, I am committed to fair and equal treatment for all our employees," Muse stated. The university will investigate and correct any situation found to violate AU's equal employment opportunity policy, he pledged.

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