Custodial staff react to outsourcing decision
By Ben Markley
The president of the college announced at the October Board of Trustees meeting that the college’s housekeeping services would not be outsourced.
Custodial supervisor Ricky Dial said the idea of outsourcing was announced to the custodial staff back in February.
“‘Why?’ was the first reaction,” Dial said.
Trustee Bob Drummond said the college considered the idea as a way to cut costs for housekeeping services.
“Given the economic times that we all find ourselves in, it’s very important for every entity to take a look at its expenses and revenues and make them come together as best they can,” Drummond said.
Dial said the college ultimately considered five outsourcing bids, one of which claimed to clean the campus for $2.2. million compared to the $4.7 million housekeeping budget.
“I’ve been here 20 years, and there’s no way that that company can do what we’ve done for the amount of money they said,” Dial said.
Custodian Andre Guilbeau said that the custodial staff does a wide variety of duties for the college that were not covered by these contracts.
“If [the college] went with a contract company that just did the cleaning part of [the custodial staff’s] job … if there’s some little emergency that custodial takes care of on a regular basis that isn’t cleaning-related, that’s going to have to fall on some other entity,” Guilbeau said.
Guilbeau said that outsourcing custodial staff for a cleaning-exclusive contract would reap no profit for the college.
“I can guarantee that if [the college] had to call a rental company and have them come and set up thirty tables and three hundred chairs, they couldn’t charge enough to make that event profitable,” Guilbeau said.
Guilbeau said the administration was slow to give information on the outsourcing considerations.
“I felt that we were initially left in the dark on some things, and that’s what caused the atmosphere of mistrust that the custodial department had of the process,” Guilbeau said. “They actually provided us with as much information as they could about the process, but it might have been too little, too late.”
Drummond said one of the reasons the decision-making process took 10 months was due to ongoing dialogue between the administration and the custodial staff.
“Once the shock kind of wore off a bit, it became an open discussion between the custodial staff and trustees, all very respectful, all very impactful,” Drummond said.
Dial said the college used the quality of the custodial compensation package for leverage in discussions.
“[The administration] kept holding above our heads the wages and benefits like it was our fault, and it’s not our fault,” Dial said. “When they give us a raise, was I supposed to say, ‘Well, I make enough now. I don’t want it?’”
After reviewing outsourcing bids, the administration asked the custodial staff for alternative ways of saving housekeeping dollars in-house. Dial said the question was asked at the wrong time.
“It seems to me, they’d come to the department first, see what we’re thinking and then if they didn’t like that then they could go looking at outsourcing,” Dial said. “To me, it looks like they’ve done it backwards.”
Drummond said the administration found they were able to save $750,000 by changing procedures in housekeeping services.
Drummond said the college will use the Olathe Health Education Center as a “pilot” for outsourcing services in the future. If the pilot is successful, he said outsourcing might occur building by building.
Dial said the procedure wouldn’t work.
“You can’t clean this place with part-timers,” Dial said. “There’s just no way. They won’t care.”
Guilbeau said he was concerned about outsourcing in the future.
“Is this going to be a yearly thing for me or is it something we’re going to be able to get past?” Guilbeau said.
Dial said the outsourcing consideration has damaged morale.
“[The custodial staff doesn’t] know who to trust and who not to trust,” he said.
Guilbeau said the process reflected on how the administration values the custodial staff.
“I think [the custodial staff] is adequately appreciated but undervalued,” Guilbeau said.
Contact Ben Markley, news editor, at firstname.lastname@example.org.