By: Nicole Brown
Rumors about the immediate dismissal of 100 of Kean University’s maintenance staffer at the end of this year are circulating within the Kean community.
However, the chapter president for the International Federation of Professional and Technical engineers, Steve Pinto said, he has no knowledge of this decision.
“We have been running on a depleted workforce for several years now,” Pinto said. “Workers take great pride in their work, relationships have been built upon and we have dedicated our lives to help Kean grow.”
According to Pinto, Kean has been outsourcing the work for all maintenance staff since 2010. He added that prior to the renovation of the East Campus building in 2010; Kean’s maintenance staff worked in the building. However, after the renovation was completed Kean hired private companies to maintain the building. Also, private companies service the new resident halls, Green Lane and the STEM building.
“The university intends to try their hardest to out-source the work,” Pinto said. “It is obvious that wrenches have been thrown into the work flow.”
Pinto explained that in March 2013, the University did an assessment on the day to day operations of the maintenance staff that lasted until August of the same year. He said that after the evaluation was completed, the university met with the union representing the maintenance staff, and told them that they the university is leaning towards cost savings through outsourcing. However, Pinto said outsourcing does not save money.
“Following the assessment the university advertised that they were hiring custodial, grounds and trade workers,” Pinto said. “They probably spent about $400,000 on that assessment.”
Already private companies operate many facilities on campus including Gourmet Dining, Barnes and Noble and Starbucks under a contract to Kean.
Pinto, who has also been an auto mechanic at Kean for the past 34 years, warned that there are consequences associated with the employment of private companies working on campus, including the safety of students, faculty and staff.
“You don’t know who you are hiring. You are relying on the companies to carry out security checks on these workers,” Pinto said. “It is our interest to provide quality service at affordable pricing.”
He accused the university of mismanagement, for example he noted that last winter the $100,000 truck that the workers usually use for salting and plowing has been parked as a result of private contractors doing the job.
“It has become somewhat a hotel for rodents.” Pinto said.
Pinto said that Kean has been outsourcing without informing employees. For instance, the automotive mechanic usually worked on Police vehicles. However, he realized that the vehicles were not coming into the shop for service. He then brought the matter to the Board of Trustees and was told that the vehicles were being serviced outside the campus.
“We made an agreement to resume on campus servicing,” Pinto said. “However, if the shop does not have the equipment to work on the vehicles then, they would seek outside sources.”
Pinto noted that the maintenance staff contract with the state for prevailing wage- an increase yearly in their salaries have remained stagnant over the years.
“We did not get an increase for the first two years,” Pinto said.
Workers are worried, including Jose Laranjeira, a grounds keeper who suffered a back injury while working on campus eight months ago. He said his greatest fears are for his family and paying his mortgage, in the event that the staff will be laid- off.
“We bleed and sweat for Kean,” Laranjeira said. “At times we are doing without equipment because private contractors are using them.”
Likewise, Miryan Lora, a custodial staff who has been working at Kean for the past 19 years said that she is more concerned about taking care of her family.
“Many of us have children in school and bills to pay,” Lora said. “We have invested our all in Kean.”
Laranjeira warned Kean that its decision will affect everyone across the board including students. He hopes that Kean will reconsider outsourcing and hire more Kean’s maintenance staff to do the work.
“Students may have to pay more in tuitions to facilitate the cost of private companies,” Laranjera said. “Don’t lose the roots that make this place what it is.”