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posted: 6/5/2014 5:30 AM

ECC board votes to hire outside firm, keep custodians

College will seek outside help with management

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  • Video: ECC custodial reaction

  • Vicki Bethke, president of the Support Staff of Elgin Community College, thanks the trustees for their decision to keep the custodial staff at the Wednesday night meeting.

       Vicki Bethke, president of the Support Staff of Elgin Community College, thanks the trustees for their decision to keep the custodial staff at the Wednesday night meeting.
    John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • Elgin Community College President David Sam addresses the crowd gathered at the Board of Trustees meeting Wednesday night.

       Elgin Community College President David Sam addresses the crowd gathered at the Board of Trustees meeting Wednesday night.
    John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • Elgin Community College student Clay Bahl congratulates the board on their decision to keep the custodial staff.

       Elgin Community College student Clay Bahl congratulates the board on their decision to keep the custodial staff.
    John Starks | Staff Photographer

 
 

Elgin Community College trustees said Wednesday they will seek an outside firm to help with managing custodial services but won't lay off any existing employees.

That means the college's 14 full-time and 74 part-time custodial workers will get to keep their jobs, current salaries and benefits, officials said.

At a special meeting Wednesday, the college board first met in closed session to discuss options for custodial services and later decided to issue a new request for proposals.

This time officials consulted with employees' union representatives.

"While we will be engaging a company to assist in custodial training, supervision ... our current custodians will remain employees of Elgin Community College," said Donna Redmer, board chairwoman.

The board voted 6-1 to authorize the request for proposals for a custodial services company that can provide management consultation services; improve efficiency; provide ongoing training, leadership and management; improve communication and interpersonal relations; and reduce cost.

Trustee Robert Getz voted against the move, saying he was not given enough time to review the request-for-proposal requirements and ask questions. He sought to have the vote postponed until a regular board meeting next week.

"I don't believe that it's right that this is presented hours before the meeting with the expectation of a delivered vote to be made," he said.

But the board's decision was met with cheers from audience members, including custodial workers, their union representatives, and ECC faculty and student supporters.

"Thank you for listening," said Luis Martinez, president of the ECC Faculty Association. "Thank you for keeping the custodians."

Vicki Bethke, president of the Support Staff of Elgin Community College Association, thanked the college board "for doing the right thing," and the ECC community, students and faculty for standing behind the custodians.

"This decision is a testament to the collective voices of SSECCA, ECCFA, the community and students speaking out against injustice," she said. "With this decision, the SSECCA team is expecting to see the issue of outsourcing removed from the bargaining table."

The existing three-year contract with the custodial workers and support staff expires June 30.

Redmer said it's too early to speculate how much the college could save in maintenance costs by hiring an outside management firm.

"We are committed to increasing efficiency of custodial services, providing better training for all our custodians and their supervisors," she said. "We have a different campus now. We have new buildings, so it's a good time to review how the work is distributed."

The college has added 202,000 square feet to its overall footprint -- more than 1.1 million square feet in total -- in the last four years. Workers clean 900,000 square feet daily in three shifts.

Mary Shesgreen, with the Fox Valley Citizens for Peace and Justice and ECC's Peace and Justice group, said that while she is happy about the board's decision to retain existing custodians, she is concerned their hours may be reduced in the name of "efficiency" similar to what large retailers such as Wal-Mart have done with their workers.

"They keep their employees earning so little money that they have to apply for food stamps," Shesgreen said. "I don't want to see that happen here with these custodians."

Shesgreen said Seattle just passed a $15-per-hour minimum wage.

"That's what I would like to see (here)," she said. "I would also like to see people be given full-time jobs so that an adult worker can support a family."

The majority of custodial workers make less than $10 an hour. Once proposals are received and reviewed, the college administration will make its recommendation for approval to the board by September end, and the new management firm would start work Oct. 1.

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