U construction workers laid off because of season, tight budgets

Tricia Michel

Saben DeSmet knows what it is like to go to work every day fearing for his job.

DeSmet is a University carpenter and has been laid off three times in the last five years.

“You could come to work today and be gone tomorrow,” he said.

Right now, DeSmet said, he is happy he is still employed, but others are not as fortunate. Many University construction workers have been laid off in the last four months because of budget cuts.

The number of construction trade workers always fluctuates with work demand, but workers said this year has been especially volatile.

“Everyone is paranoid now more than ever,” DeSmet said.

Although budget cuts have affected some trades more than others, many said they feel anxious about who will be laid off next.

General labor foreman Frank Czech said that every year, employee cutbacks are common during the winter season. But this year has been different, he said.

“You’ve got to produce or you won’t hang around,” he said.

Facilities Management Construction Manager Tim Nelson said recent layoffs are consistent with layoffs in previous years.

“We fluctuate daily,” he said. “As the work load goes up we hire people, and as the work load goes down we lay people off.”

University construction workers said budget cuts have affected the amount and quality of work available on campus.

Pipe cover foreman Mark Neuman said budget cuts have been especially noticeable in his


Neuman said the University is also cutting back on general maintenance and follow-up work.

In attempts to save money, the University has been installing pipes without insulation, he said.

Ignoring this inexpensive money-saving tactic, he said, will only cost the University more in the long run.

Czech said general maintenance on campus is important and has been axed because of funding limits.

“Things are deteriorating. If you don’t fix them now, then they’ll cost more in the future,” he said.

Many University construction workers said they have been warned budget cuts could get worse, meaning less work and more layoffs.

DeSmet said getting laid off is demoralizing, and the worst part about his profession is not knowing when he will be able to find work.