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The Daily Tar Heel

UNC Printing Services downsizes

Nine employee layoffs, two copy centers close

Six and a half years ago, Bernie Oakley had just obtained his dream job.

Oakley, assistant director of UNC Printing Services, attended the University as a student. His son followed, adding to a legacy Oakley had hoped would continue.

But on Feb. 11, Oakley said that job became a “nightmare” after he was one of nine printing services employees laid off in response to $2.1 million in losses in the department during the past decade.

Carolyn Elfland, associate vice chancellor for campus services, said market forces, rather than looming budget cuts, accounted for the decision to lay off nine of the office’s 21 employees, as well as cutting copy centers in the Student Union and the Kenan-Flagler Business School.

“What’s going to happen is that hopefully we have downsized the business to the point that it can break even,” she said.

But Oakley and other employees said they disagree, attributing the layoffs instead to years of poor management.

“The same people who have been running the company for the past 15 years are still running it,” he said. “You don’t leave a person in office for 15 years when they have driven the business into the ground.”

Oakley said the decisions made by Susan Anderson, University business officer for UNC Printing Services, have had harmful effects on the department.

Anderson declined to comment on what she said were personal issues.

Oakley and other employees said Anderson incurred unnecessary expenses by leasing equipment from Xerox instead of using the existing machines, among several other ill-advised decisions.

“There was not one person in the building who thought that was a good idea,” he said.

Mark Jones, manager of the copy center in Kenan-Flagler Business School, said he agrees with Oakley in that the closing of the copy centers is due to UNC Printing Services’ mismanagement.

“Several printing services employees reached out to higher management to question the capabilities of its director before any decision concerning printing services was announced,” he said. “But no one listened.”

Though he disapproves of Anderson’s decisions, Oakley said the business’ downturn is not completely her fault.

“Susan tried her best,” he said in an e-mail. “It just wasn’t good enough.”

Richard Robinson, one of the employees recently laid off, said he is concerned with how the company will fare after these cuts.

“They don’t seem to be changing course, just downsizing,” said Robinson, who was laid off Friday. “I personally don’t hold out much hope for their long-term survival.”

Printing services shut down four copy centers between 2002 and 2004, and has eliminated 29 positions since 2002.

Even those who were able to keep their jobs said they are apprehensive about the future.

Jim White, an employee still with the department, said he is more surprised the department wasn’t shut down altogether.

“Everything leading up to that day made it seem that they were going to shut us down,” he said.

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White said he is also concerned that the layoffs might affect the company’s service performance.

“The biggest concern will be delivery because if people are out delivering they can’t be in the shop working,” he said.

But not all laid-off employees said they are disheartened.

Daniel Pennington said his severance package, which includes an extra two months’ pay, covers insurance for a year and offers free access to the Lee Hecht Harrison job placement firm, is helping him map out his future.

“They’re doing the best they can,” he said. “It actually made me feel pretty good.”

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