Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Nashville school board approves contract to outsource janitorial jobs

About 700 employees will be cut from district's payroll as Ohio company manages janitorial, custodial services By Janell Ross • THE TENNESSEAN • May 26, 2010 Metro Nashville Public Schools board approved a contract Tuesday to outsource janitorial and custodial services and shift about 700 employees off the district's payroll. In a 5 to 3 vote, the board voted to approve a five-year contract with Ohio-based GCA Services, valued at about $20 million. The company was one of 16 that submitted proposals to provide janitorial and landscaping services at schools and other facilities. The plan will save the district about $6.2 million, a GCA official said. "This board should expect a very high level of accountability (from GCA)," said Jesse Register, director of schools. Opponents of the plan have said that outsourcing could lead to weaker employee background checks and painful wage and benefit cuts for some of the district's lowest-paid employees. More than 50 janitors attended Tuesday's meeting wearing stickers that read "People Not Profits." The board vote left them bitterly disappointed. "We are already at the bottom of the totem pole. We work the hardest and get paid the least," said James Davis, who has been a Metro schools janitor for 23 years and earns $14 an hour. "… I really don't know how we are expected to make it on anything less." GCA declined to provide details of its pay and benefits plan before the meeting but said it would answer questions today. Board questions and the proposal revealed that the company will hold more than a dozen job fairs where Metro employees may apply for work with GCA. The first such job fair will be held on Saturday. The company also plans to provide its newest employees with four different health-care plans that will begin coverage immediately after an employee is hired but require the employee to shoulder a greater portion of their health-care costs. Metro Schools pays about 75 percent of health insurance costs while GCA will cover about 65 percent. Metro's custodians and landscapers are represented by the Service Employees International Union Local 205. The union's interpretation of GCA's proposal predicts a drop in the average wage from $13 an hour to $10. The Metro Nashville Education Association, a teachers union, Metro Council's Black Caucus, state Rep. Gary Moore and Councilwoman Anna Page wrote the board to express concerns about its outsourcing plans. On Tuesday, a union official stood outside the board meeting just after the vote and encouraged workers not to give up their fight and to attend next Tuesday's Metro Council meeting. The school district's final budget must be approved by Metro Council. How they voted Board members Jo Ann Brannon, Kay Simmons, Steve Glover, Gracie Porter and board Chair David Fox voted for the measure. Board members Sharon Gentry, Karen Johnson and Ed Kindall voted against it. Member Mark North was absent.

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