BVU's Optinet employees attend board meeting to voice concerns

PHOTO: Samantha Zarek

BRISTOL, VA - Several extra seats were filled at the BVU board meeting as employees came to voice concerns regarding their jobs and benefits if the sale of BVU's Optinet to Sunset Digital goes through.

"It's just exhausting for the employees. It's just an emotional roller coaster. At this point we're still not quite sure what our pay is, what the health insurance is, when the deal is going to close..." says Optinet employee, Jonathan Blackley.

If the deal does close, Blackley is specifically concerned about an education perk. He is a part of the education assistance program, which allows him to go back to college. BVU pays a portion and the employee pays the remainder. There's also a contract involved-- you must work at BVU for five years after receiving the benefit.

"Moving into the unknown of I don't know who Sunset is...I'd rather that contract be terminated instead of conveyed, and then if sunset decides to do tuition reimbursement of some sort then I can work it out with them directly," he says.

Another major concern is what will replace BVU's generous earned sick leave policy. Employees understand BVU would pay back earned sick time at retirement, but it's not yet clear what Sunset's policy would be.

"From our understanding part of the contract is not to convey that money over or convey that time over and it would be lost," says Optinet employee, John Fredericks.

It's up to the BVU board to decide how to move forward.

"We don't have a formal retention or severance plan so this may be an opportunity for the board to kind of craft something to incentivize the employees to stick with the transaction and also fairness and equity," says BVU CEO, Don Bowman.

Sunset officials were also at the meeting and at this point, said they will do their best to make potential new employees feel welcome regarding their benefits. The BVU board will be considering the employees concerns and will vote on solutions next month.

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