Members of a union for public employees Thursday protested the dismissal of a 27-year roofer at the University of Utah who was replaced with prison labor.

Paul Shores, a worker in the carpenter shop of the Plant Operations Department, was laid off this year with one other worker after the state agency that oversees the maintenance and construction of state buildings opted to use inmates to work on campus."The university administration has portrayed itself as a passive partner in this relationship," says a statement by the local chapter of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

"In reality, it was a decision made by the University of Utah and it is a decision the University of Utah can reverse."

Randy Turpin, assistant vice president for administrative services, said the U. does not hire contractors to work on university buildings. Utah's Department of Facilities and Construction Maintenance oversees the work completed on state-owned buildings.

"DFCM handles (contracting) out of the state office. They handle it all out of that office."

In the past, however, because of a lack of resources, the state department wasn't able to handle all of the work at the U. in a timely manner. That is why a large staff was hired at the shops, he said.

"For 25 years, we've been in the maintenance business," Turpin said. "DFCM is handling their program better now because there are resources and a system in place. The need for us to have a large maintenance staff diminished. We couldn't continue to have that large of a staff."

Two workers were laid off, including Shores. Those workers are given first priority if other jobs become available on campus. While Shores protested his dismissal through the appeal policy, the other worker was hired back in another position in two weeks, Turpin said.

Shores has one more step in the grievance process before his appeals have been exhausted.

Sen. Ed Mayne, D-West Valley City, has asked U. President Bernie Machen to reconsider the decision to terminate Shores from his position in roofing and asbestos abatement.

"While I believe that the prison industries program is worthwhile, I am disturbed that a loyal employee could be displaced three years from retirement," Mayne said.