Custodians win battle for their jobs

Custodians win battle for their jobs

Scituate custodians pose for a picture after hearing the district will not privatize custodial services. Back row: Larry Purtill and Gary Contnior. Middle Row: Mike Bhem, Jesse Corp, Mike Daigle, Jeff Spicer, Paul Homerston, Debbie Homerston, Sarah Markey, Josh Homerston, David Fortin and Nick Carnevale. Front Row: Mike Rizzo and Ray Potenza.

SCITUATE – Custodians in Scituate Public Schools slept easier Monday night after the Scituate School Committee unanimously decided not to privatize maintenance services and keep the current staff, said Joshua Homerston, president of the Scituate Custodians Union.

Most of the 20-member custodial staff attended the meeting and were ecstatic to hear that the three-month battle was over and they had won.

“All those guys can go home and sleep tonight now they know their jobs are secure,” Homerston said.

He added that Scituate custodians will not need to take a pay cut. Homerston said the bids for privatized service proposed a pay reduction of $7 or $8, or 35 percent, for custodial staff, and they would not be able to continue employment with the district or a private company with that sort of “huge cut.”

“It’s not right to act like they’re not worth it. You can’t put a value on what they do outside of their regular duties,” he said.

Over the past three months, custodians and their supporters told stories of how the maintenance staff goes above and beyond cleaning duties. Some examples included tying students’ shoes, opening a locked locker, helping students find classrooms and more.

Homerston said one staff member, Jeff Spicer, knows the names of every student at his school, something he said is invaluable.

“That’s what puts us apart from others,” he said. “We literally do anything for them. We live in the same town. We went to Scituate schools. We shop at the same grocery store.”

After opening the three bids from a request for proposals for private custodial services, ranging from $523,745 to $725,142, the School Committee found that cost savings on the $743,000 currently paid was not worth making a significant change.

According to Director of Finance Matt Bobola, cost savings directly impacted staff wages. After adjusting bids to pay the current hourly average of $20.07, the estimated savings were cut from $285,875 to $58,000.

Homerston said support from the community served as the backbone of the custodians’ campaign against privatization and thanked those who came out for their support.

“Without the support of parents and teachers, we wouldn’t have to be here. They didn’t have to do that,” he said.

Homerston said the union is willing to work with the district during upcoming contract negotiations to come up with the best solution for both parties.

Contract negotiations first brought to light the committee’s intention to look into privatizing custodial services last November.

Due to a $300,000 budget deficit, the district looked into several options, including voluntary early retirement, bus routing, increased recruitment of out-of-district students, as well as privatization to close the gap, according to School Committee Chairwoman Erika McCormick.

McCormick added that the committee committed the custodians that if the savings were not enough, the district would not privatize.

“After observing the community outcry in support, I vote to not outsource,” McCormick said, and the remaining four members voted in agreement.

Committee member Mary Manning-Morse said through researching privatization, she found ways the custodians can help fill the budget deficit, including better management of overtime costs, reducing the $100,000 in overtime incurred last year.

Committee member Carolyn Dias pointed out that the original deficit was $1.2 million and the committee worked diligently to bring it down to $329,000.

“This almost could close it, but again, we made a commitment,” Dias said.

Town Councilor Gary Grande said the custodial service bids also didn’t accurately account for snow removal. He said that during snowy winters, snow removal can be expensive, calling into question the potential cost savings here.

Comments

Then why did they bother to do this in the first place? Just leave them alone. This town is becoming a horrible place to live. Condos, low income, lots of corruption.

The idea of privatizing the custodians shouldn't be finding the cheapest option. It should be about finding the best option to protect taxpayers down the road Undoubtedly from pension funds that aren't adequately funded in 2040.

I support capitalism. Best price for a reasonable service. I would privatize a number of services because the savings are significant that can be regulated with a contract that stipulates the level of service. Let’s face the fact in many cases the job is not rocket science. We would also gain more flexibility and avoid a pension that will default in the future.