By Ericka Blackwell
“I am 64 years old. Where am I supposed to find work now if I lose my job,” said Ron Thompson. “I have been with the school 38 years.”
Lincoln University is looking to outsource housekeeping and maintenance jobs to help cut the budget. The budget is currently at about a $5 million deficit.
The state cut funding for Lincoln at $558,000 this current year according to Diane Brown, manager at the Office of the Board of Trustees. At the beginning of the school year, 17% of the budgets for departments were cut.
After the Board of Trustees meeting Nov. 3, it was decided to explore outsourcing housekeeping and maintenance. The housekeeping and maintenance union contract expired back in June 2012.
The amount being saved is still unclear. It all depends on the lowest bid.
“We won’t know ‘til we get bids if it is worth outsourcing,” said Matthew Muscella, Director of the Physical Plant. “Nothing is official… [We] just talked to the union about exploring these options.”
There is no official date on when this will be effective. It takes approximately two months for a proposal to be accepted. The workers were told that Dec. 31 was the potential effective date, but it’s not going to happen according to Muscella.
The employees are concerned about their jobs. Some believe it is a way to effectively perform union busting. Union busting is when a new contract isn’t negotiated and outsourcing comes into play, typically wages and benefits are cut for employees.
Thompson who has been with Lincoln since 1974, mentioned that he and his wife are currently applying with their mortgage company to have their payments lowered. Thompson’s wife’s wages were recently cut from her place of employment, leaving them with a huge financial hit to deal with. Thompson is now wondering what the future holds for his own job now that outsourcing has come into play.
“We need our jobs,” said Thompson.
According to Muscella, the company that is granted the bid will hire on the current staff. It will just mean the school will not be paying for salary and benefits. This is what the company will negotiate with employees.
Muscella went on to explain that hypothetically if a worker is paid $50,000 a year in salary and receives about $17,000 in benefits, the employee is essentially getting $67,000 a year. Benefits increase costs for the school which is why outsourcing was brought up as an option to cut back on costs.
There is currently a petition circulating campus for students to sign to help save the jobs of the housekeeping and maintenance employees of the university. According to Thompson there is no strike scheduled.