In response to recent staff layoffs, a group of Temple University staff and faculty members plan to protest today in front of president Ann Weaver Hart's Rittenhouse Square residence.

Representatives of the Temple chapter of the city's municipal labor union claim that the university did not give the union enough notice of the layoffs and mistreated dismissed employees.

According to Paul Dannenfelser, president of Local 1723 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Temple fired 18 union-affiliated administrative assistants and other staff last week. One dismissal is still pending. Nine were rehired to vacant jobs, but the union is concerned that the workers will lose their seniority.

Temple spokesman Ray Betzner said the union was notified of the layoffs before Memorial Day, meeting contract requirements of early notice.

Dannenfelser said the union learned of the layoffs on May 21 but did not learn the details until May 26.

Employees were notified the following day, he said, giving the union no time to discuss alternatives with the university, as called for in the contract. The workers were paid through June 1.

Union leaders said members of both Local 1723 and the Temple Association of University Professionals are also concerned about reports that laid-off workers were escorted out of university buildings by security guards or other staff.

"They were treated cruelly," said Arthur Hochner, TAUP president, adding that some of the laid-off employees had worked at Temple for decades.

Betzner denied that workers were forced to leave the buildings.

"We don't use security people to escort folks who have been laid off outside of buildings," he said.

The layoffs are part of university-wide restructuring to meet a reduced operating budget for next year, Betzner said. He declined to say how many workers had been dismissed, since many were rehired to other university jobs.

"This was done in a very chaotic way," said Dannenfelser. "There hasn't been much information about what is happening."

The demonstration comes in the midst of contract negotiations between Temple and both TAUP and Local 1723. TAUP has been without a new contract since October 15, 2008; Local 1723 since October 31, 2007.

AFSCME District Council 47 President Cathy Scott said the recent layoffs were a sign of "increasing hostility to the unions at Temple."

"From their perspective, it's whatever they want or nothing," Scott said.

Betzner said the university is engaged in ongoing and positive talks with TAUP.

With respect to AFSCME, Betzner said, "we continue to be willing to sit down and talk about their contract."

The demonstration is to begin at noon on the south side of Rittenhouse Square.