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August 15, 2013

 

Harford dairy facility workers finding new jobs

Private company set to run Cornell’s expanded teaching, resource center

DairyBob Ellis/staff photographer
A new barn nearly the size of two football fields is pictured under construction in December at the Cornell University Teaching and Research Center in Harford. The facility is now completed and will be run by a private company starting in September.

By TYRONE L. HEPPARD
Staff Reporter
HARFORD — After Cornell University announced in November it would be cutting jobs at its Animal Science Teaching and Resource Center, the college has been working with United Auto Workers Local 2300 to find new employment for displaced workers.
The T&R Center in Harford is overseen by the university’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and has been used by students and researchers looking for ways to improve dairy cattle management since the early 1970s.
In November, Cornell told workers it would hire an Attica-based dairy management company, Dairy 8, to operate the T&R Center after completion of its $8 million upgrade project. Thirty-two jobs at the facility have been eliminated.
The college’s human resource manager, Laurie DeNardo, has been working with former T&R Center workers to help find employment with the university or elsewhere.
DeNardo said as part of an agreement Cornell has with UAW Local 2300, the college has been finding jobs for workers since it began coordinating efforts with the union in January.
“We have a UAW contract that’s been in place for a number of years,” DeNardo said. “We’ve worked closely with our counterparts in our Cornell deparments (and) the college and the university has been working together with the union. Out of 32 workers, we’ve currently placed 28.”
DeNardo said union workers who have found employment with the university did so through an internal “bumping” process where union members have a chance to interview for another position on campus they are qualified for.
If a position is held by a union worker who is less qualified than the applicant, the worker often lose their job and becomes part of the bumping process until all positions at the university are filled.
UAW Local 2300 President Terry Sharpe said this is because when a worker starts a job, the worker gains seniority over the years and the person who gets “bumped” usually has less seniority than the union member moving into the job.
“It’s already started to have a ripple effect,” Sharpe said of the bumping process. “Our goal is to try and fill open positions but sometimes that doesn’t happen. I do know a couple of individuals who are in the process of finding (new) positions.”
Workers can choose to skip the bumping process and to accept the layoff or seek employment outside of the university. Sharpe added those workers can return to Cornell to seek employment, but in most cases qualifying or finding a job is more difficult.
DeNardo said some workers have filled positions in Cornell’s agricultural and grounds departments while others successfully found employment outside of the university.
She added communication was key and based on feedback she has received from the union, most of the people involved in the process are happy with the results so far.
“We’ve had really positive feedback,” DeNardo said. “We’ve worked diligently with all of those offices to place individuals and they’ve (the union) recognized how much we’ve done and I think the relationship has been very positive. We’re very pleased.”
Senior Associate Dean Jan Nyrop said with regard to the elimination of jobs, change and upgrade at the facility was necessary to achieve the college’s goals.
“Our core mission is research education ... that’s what we want to be good at,” Nyrop said. “We recognized the facility and the operations (that) would allow us to realize our research and extended goals were inadequate.”
Nyrop said making the decision to eliminate positions at the facility was a long process but in the end, the college thinks hiring Dairy 8 was the right choice.
“We discovered there were outside vendors that had skill we could not ... muster for operating the facility,” Nyrop said. “You need that if you’re going to do research that is going to level the New York state dairy industry.”
Nyrop added Dairy 8 has entered into a five-year contract with Cornell to manage the T&R Center and transfer of operations will be on Sept. 1.

 

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