By Nicole Brown
The New Jersey Civil Service Commission approved Kean University’s request to outsource Kean’s housekeepers, groundskeepers and automotive mechanics, a move expected to put the future of more than 100 University employees in potential jeopardy.
Vice President of University Relations Susan Kayne said the University outsourced custodial services at the Liberty Hall Museum and East Campus for the past four years. In 2013 the University carried out a comprehensive evaluation on Kean’s maintenance staffers and decided to improve service quality elsewhere, she said. She claimed the decision would save the University millions.
“Successful transition and a resulting review of the requests for proposals by outsource vendors in September 2014 found that the University could also expect to reduce payroll by $2.2 million per year,” said Kayne.
Gerald Newsome, Vice President of the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, the union representing Kean’s maintenance staff, said Kean’s decision to outsource its maintenance staff does not reflect cost savings.
Newsome said the local union cannot agree to the administration’s request to alter their salaries to facilitate cost savings because the maintenance staff does not have the power to negotiate the kinds of compromise the University wants.
“The University knows that the State has a certain salary range for its workers,” said Newsome. “We do not have the flexibility to negotiate salary,” Newsome said, noting that the University already saves a considerable amount of money by not providing maintenance staffers with health insurance benefits.
James Castiglione, President of the Kean Federation of Teachers, the union representing full- time faculty and professional staff, said the KFT is concerned about the University’s proposal to outsource maintenance workers.
“Faculty and staff have developed relationships and confidence with the maintenance staff,” stated Castiglione. “These workers have undergone background checks and they are committed to the university.”
Additionally, Castiglione emphasized that the maintenance union is not the only union within the Kean community that the administration targets. He explained that the number of full-time tenured and tenure-track faculty has declined from about 400 to less than 300 over 10 years.
While Kean’s maintenance workers are anxiously awaiting the fate of their jobs, many echoed sentiments of disappointment in the University’s decision. Many wished to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation, but one grounds worker who committed over 15 years to the University now worries about the livelihood of his family.
Kayne stated that the University’s Board of Trustees reviewed the recommendation to outsource in December 2014 and a decision will be made this spring.