March 1 2019 08:56 AM

Latest round of layoffs has reduced Health Sciences Center landscaping staff by 29 percent.

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Five personnel positions assigned to the University of Oklahoma’s Health Sciences Center landscaping turf management were eliminated in a round of layoffs on Feb. 7, according to an article by Jordan Miller in the Oklahoma Daily (oudaily.com).

The layoffs were due to changes in the campus’ landscaping requirements, according to a university spokesperson. This reduction reportedly accounts for 29 percent of the HSC’s landscaping department.

This decision comes after 50 staff positions in the university’s landscaping department were terminated in November 2018, as previously reported by Irrigation & Green Industry magazine.

According to Oklahoma University President James Gallogly, there was not much work to be done during the winter and students were paying these employees to “sit around and wait for the summer to come or spring planting season.”

Miller quotes a source with knowledge of the situation, who said these justifications are untrue, and that there’s plenty of work in the wintertime, like trimming trees, blowing leaves, mulching leaves, snow and ice removal and pruning.

Former landscaper and gardener Ivan Wright who was terminated in the recent layoffs said that even when there was inclement weather, employees worked in the greenhouse. Wright worries that the recent reduction in staff will justify further privatization of the department.

Miller writes that the university has already issued a solicitation on Feb. 19 for bids on turf management in landscaping at the OU Health Sciences Center. According to the solicitation, the duties requested are mowing, scalping, fertilization and herbicide application — many of which were duties of the five positions that were terminated.

Lauren Brookey, vice president for marketing and communications, says that the bid is just a way the university will gather information on how much the university would spend to possibly outsource the services, if it decides to.