More than 65 demonstrators gathered Wednesday to protest Indiana University’s decision to lay off 50 workers and rehire them through a temporary staffing agency to avoid having to provide health insurance as mandated by the Affordable Care Act.
Near the IU Sample Gates, protestors chanted and held signs that emphasized workers’ rights and criticized the university trustees’ decision. Some protesters attempted to enter IU President Michael McRobbie’s office but IU Police Department officers blocked them from doing so.
IU Assistant Professor of Labor Studies Joe Varga says the university’s actions don’t coincide with the mission of a public institution.
“It is here for the benefit of the public. That includes the workers here at Indiana University, includes the students, the staff, the faculty. If all of those people aren’t benefitting from the policies of Indiana University, then it’s no longer a public university.”
IU spokesman Mark Land says IU could have continued to manage the employees and kept them under the 30-hour limit to avoid having to pay for health care insurance, but university officials decided the temporary staffing agency Manpower would be better able to handle the administrative aspects of the workers’ employment.
He says on a more general note the university does not have the finances to provide health care for all its hourly employees.
“You could make an argument that everybody should have health care insurance,” he says. “But the fact of the matter is if everybody has health care insurance where do those extra millions of dollars come from? So that’s what we’re trying to balance here.”
Land says all the employees will retain their jobs and be paid at their current rate.