Tempers flare as BOT votes to outsource maintenance staff
By: Rebecca Panico
There was little standing room available as protesters flooded the Board of Trustees March 2 meeting where the final decision to outsource maintenance staffers was made.
The Board voted to outsource maintenance jobs to GCA Services Group in order to save approximately $3.45 million annually, according to a release from Kean’s University Relations. The company is a leading national provider of facility services to colleges and universities, the release said.
According to Steve Pinto, Kean’s chapter president for the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, the decision will fire approximately 60 staffers. Gerald Newsome, Vice President of the IFPTE, implored the Board to “do their homework” and review the union’s cost saving analysis to make an informed and educated decision before outsourcing.
The gavel dropped to bring order in the public commenting section, as some workers struggled to get their heartfelt rationale through to the Board within the allotted three minutes. Some shouted to let speakers finish and say their piece.
“My children won’t be able to attend this lovely school or any college,” explained one maintenance worker, noting the financial strife him and his family would face if the Board decided to outsource.
Pinto implored the Board to “do what is right” and Newsome called the Board’s decision “union-busting.”
There was support from other unions as well. Dr. James Castiglione, president of the Kean Federation of Teachers, expressed support for the IFPTE and noted that outsourcing would cost two to three times more than in-house services. Dr. Kathleen Henderson, president of the Kean University Adjunct Faculty Federation, backed the union as well.
“There continues to be an environment of disparaging and antagonistic ‘anti-union animus’ and sentiment pervading most of Kean when it comes to rank and file ‘labor’ from the top levels of the administration down to some in middle management,” Henderson noted.
The Board’s resolution will grant up to $2,000 in workforce retraining support to displaced workers. Maintenance staffers’ contracts will expire 45 days after they’ve received written confirmation from the University, according Pinto.
In other business, the Board approved a new articulation agreement for Essex and Union County Colleges between Kean’s Global Business School, Robert Busch School of Design, and Michael Graves School of Architecture. The agreement hopes to recruit new students to the University and help expand these programs.