CHAPEL HILL – UNC housekeepers want Chancellor Holden Thorp to reassign a top manager in Housekeeping Services whom they claim engages in harassing and intimidating behavior.
The housekeepers, students and other supporters, including labor unions and the Chapel Hill-Carrboro NAACP, have planned a rally today at noon in front of the South Building to demand that Tonya Sell, assistant director of Housekeeping Services, be reassigned.
Sell, who did a 15-year stretch in the Navy, has been a source of much consternation among housekeepers since she instituted a “no sit-down” policy last fall that forbids housekeepers from taking even a short break without first getting it approved by a supervisor.
Housekeepers have also complained that Sell, who supervises about 100 workers, lacks professionalism, threatens employees and engages in verbal abuse.
“She doesn’t treat us with respect,” said longtime UNC housekeeper Odessa Davis. “That’s something that I really, really want is for her to treat us like we’re somebody and she doesn’t do that.”
Still, Davis said she doesn’t want to see Sell fired, just moved from Housing Services.
“I think she should be reassigned,” Davis said. “I don’t like to see people out of work, but she needs to be reassigned somewhere else other than housekeeping.”
Sell, who also has been accused of forging an employee’s signature, did not return calls to The Chapel Hill Herald by its deadline Thursday.
The forgery allegedly occurred when Sell dated and signed a zone manager’s name on his performance review.
“I have a written statement from him,” said James Holman, a housekeeper and chairman of the Employee Forum’s policy and practice committee. “This is a bad example for her to set for her managers and I’m pretty sure it’s illegal.”
UNC spokesman Mike McFarland said in an email message that the university is restricted from discussing job performance issues involving a specific staff member under the state Public Records Act and state Personnel Act.
Brenda Malone, the university’s vice chancellor for human resources, confirmed McFarland’s statement, but added that the university is not indifferent.
“The allegations noted in this petition are indeed serious, and the University takes these issues extremely seriously,” Malone said in an emailed statement.
Laurel Ashton, leader of Student Action With Workers, said the fact that Sell remained in a supervisory role in the wake of such serious allegations is cause for great concern about the leadership at the university.
“Tonya Sell is a major problem in the department, but the real problem is an administration that allows her to continue to do illegal things,” Ashton said.
In response to housekeepers’ complaints, the university contracted with PRM Consulting Group to conduct an assessment of the climate and culture of Housekeeping Services and to provide alternative solutions and approaches to address any concerns found.
The firm began conducting individual interviews with employees, managers and others in April.
McFarland said PRM has not finalized its report and there is no timetable for addressing recommendations the firm might bring forth.
Malone said PRM’s report will be released later this month “and the University will act swiftly on the recommendations presented there.”
Ashton said the housekeepers, and those who support them, are not convinced the report will be a magic bullet to cure ills in Housekeeping Services.
She also said housekeepers should not have to wait an extended period for their concerns to be addressed.
“These issues are happening now, and they need to be dealt with now,” Ashton said. “We’re not putting much hope in PRM.”