January 5, 2013
Cornell dairy jobs to be cut
HARFORD — After Cornell University finishes construction on four new buildings at its Animal Science Teaching and Research Center on Daisy Hollow Road at a cost of $8 million, the university will hire an outside company to run the facility.
About 30 Cornell positions at the facility will be eliminated.
The displaced union and nonunion workers may reapply for their jobs with the dairy management company, Dairy 8, or apply for open jobs at Cornell’s Ithaca campus.
Members of the United Auto Workers Local 2300 can also apply for other union jobs at Cornell.
The switch will happen in August, according to a statement from the university.
The employees were informed in April and then heard the final decision on Nov. 9 in a meeting with Jan Nyrop, senior associate dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, or CALS, which runs the facility, according to a statement released by Cornell.
Dairy 8 began the application process to run the facility in January 2011, according to Bill Prokop, who will manage the operation for Dairy 8.
“Any current T&R facility employee who is interested in continuing at the facility will be interviewed by the operator,” Nyrop said in the statement.
Staff at the Harford facility can also apply for vacant positions on Cornell’s Ithaca campus, she said. Union workers have the option of seeking employment through an internal union ‘bumping’ process with UAW Local 2300, she added.
In order to “bump” another UAW employee, workers must qualify for the job and get a job interview, said Darren Williams, head mechanic at the facility and a union worker. The worker who is “bumped” could in turn displace another UAW employee, creating a domino effect, he said.
“Somebody in the end is going to lose,” said Williams, 46. “That’s the bad part.”
Dairy 8 will not exclude any worker with experience from applying for the positions with the company at the new facility, said Prokop, a 59-year-old veterinarian and Cornell alumnus.
While the company is still determining how many positions will be needed at the facility and the pay rate for the jobs, Prokop said the positions will have benefits and will not be the types of low-paying jobs college students do to put themselves through school.
Dairy 8 is looking to create an environment that people enjoy working in and will push workers to continue to learn in their field.
“We’re going to strive to be the best,” said Prokop. “We’ve got to create an environment that nurtures that, that makes people want to work there.”
Dairy 8 is a subsidiary of Attica Veterinary Associates PC. Both companies are based in Attica, Wyoming County.
Workers who apply for jobs with Dairy 8 will lose their chance at state retirement unless they have 10 years vested in the system, Williams said.
“That’s a big loss for a lot of people,” he said, adding that he is two years shy of reaching the 10 year mark to qualify for state retirement.
When interviewed about the Harford expansion in December, W. R. Butler, professor and chairman of the Department of Animal Science, said no layoffs were being considered at the Harford facility.
Butler was present when workers at the facility were told in April that their positions were being eliminated, said Williams and John Knowlton, an animal attendant at the facility.
Cornell officials could not be reached for comment due to the holiday break.
At the April meeting, Cornell promised to update the workers about the college’s plans in July, but did not hold another meeting until the Nov. 9 meeting with Nyrop, William said.
The university promised in its statement to aid the Harford employees as they look for new jobs.
“We will explore every option possible to maximize future employment opportunities for the affected staff,” Nyrop said in the statement.
The university pledged to offer career services consultations with CALS human resources department staff and “... a 5 percent bonus to all UAW-represented employees who stay through the operations transfer date.”
According to Nyrop’s statement, Cornell chose to hire an outside dairy management team “... to enable the college to focus more sharply on its core mission: dairy research as part of the Land Grant mission to help farmers in New York, rather than direct day-to-day dairy facility management.”
Workers at the facility say its management struggled.
Tom Eddy, who manages the Harford facility, declined to comment.
Field workers routinely put in overtime because farming decisions are not made until late in the day, Knowlton said.
“They couldn’t manage it,” said Randy Partridge, a maintenance worker. “They couldn’t do their job, so we’re losing ours.”
The current Harford facility was “used well, has served us well, but was just worn out,” Butler said in the December interview.
Partridge said the 40-year-old buildings at the facility were allowed to decay while the maintenance crew was cut from four full-time workers and two part time workers to two full-time and one part-time worker.
A new facility was needed to stay current with the evolving dairy industry, Butler said. The new Harford facility buildings will contain advanced milking and cutting-edge animal identification equipment, he said.
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