UT employees raise awareness of hostile work environment

UT employees raise awareness of hostile work environment

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"We'd like to make the university and this department a place where people would like to work and be treated like a human being not to be talked down to," said United Campus Workers President Tom Anderson. "We'd like to make the university and this department a place where people would like to work and be treated like a human being not to be talked down to," said United Campus Workers President Tom Anderson.
"They are not listening, and they don't care," Melissa Murray said. "They are not listening, and they don't care," Melissa Murray said.

By STEPHANIE BEECKEN
6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - Custodians and members of United Campus Workers hosted a forum Wednesday to air their grievances with the University of Tennessee.

The workers say there has been a nearly 50 percent turnover rate among their ranks since the start of 2012.

Organizers of the forum say the goal was to make the community aware of the abuse some employees say they face while working at UT. They hope the message will make it to the managers and eventually improve their work environments.

Melissa Murray has worked as a custodian for UT's Building Services Department for the past five years.

She described a hostile work environment, saying her supervisors don't communicate with her.

"They are not listening and they don't care," said Murray.

Murray says she was forced to transfer to a different area of campus and often works alone. she says she feels unsafe working alone and is not allowed to use her cell phone unless she is on a break and that's if she has cell service.

Murray says when she voiced several concerns with her manager she was written up.

"I got a bad evaluation for using my cell phone to call the manager to talk about my situation," said Murray.

United Campus Workers President Tom Anderson says since last year the group has had around 60 employees raise similar concerns.

"Derogatory remarks have been made repeatedly to a number of different folks, and that's just not the kind of work environment that the UT reports to want to have," said Anderson.

Anderson says since January of 2012 there has been close to a 50 percent turnover rate in UT's Building Services Department.

"I've had a number of people express to me that with the treatment and the conditions that they work under, it's really not worth staying, and they are actively look for other employment," said Anderson.

The university released a statement saying employees have met with management to share concerns. A voluntary transfer process has been started so employees can change work sites. Anderson says this alone is not enough.

"We'd like to make the university and this department a place where people would like to work and be treated like a human being, not to be talked down to," said Anderson.

Some custodians told 6 News they weren't told of the voluntary transfer process and that during the meeting with multiple managers, it was intimidating to voice their concerns.

Organizers of the forum hope managers understand that they have more than one or two complaints. The work environment in the Building Services Department needs to change.

A UT spokesperson sent 6 News a statement saying, "Since last summer, UT has been transitioning its custodial service from a partially in-house and contracted service to entirely in-house. Through this we have created 140 new full-time positions with university benefits. Making changes of this scale has posed some challenges throughout the implementation."

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