Privatization yields school savings

Outsourcing custodians approved

The Swansea (MA) School Committee unanimously approved the privatization of the custodial and maintenance staff that will allow the final step of contracting out all services once occupied by 19 full-time employees. Superintendent Stephan Flanagan said that the school has received two bids to outsource custodial and maintenance services, offering significant savings over current costs.

Flanagan reported a proposed fiscal 2009 savings of $152,000 on health care costs that the town will no longer have to pay for the contracted workers come July 1.

The lowest of the two bids, by M & M Contracting Cleaning Inc. of Brockton, came back with an additional savings of $258,352 from current custodial/maintenance salaries.

But the M & M proposal includes a custodial staff of seven full-time and seven part-time staff, far less than the 16 full-time positions in the schools now, though that number has dropped by three over the last year with the positions not being refilled. The proposed contract will allow a full-time custodian for each school in addition to the school administration building and seven part-timers that will share various schools and nightly duties. Included in that mix will be one full-time manager and one part-time manager. As part of the bid, the school will provide the contractor with a 60-day written notice on anything the schools feel is not being done up to par and 30-days notice if they wish to terminate the contract, Flanagan said.

The three-year contract calls for the custodial staff to be paid $16 an hour for the first two years and $17 a hour for the third year, with maintenance staff starting at $22 an hour and $23 an hour in the third year.

Flanagan said he will be talking to the contractor on Friday to discuss the possibility of keeping the three maintenance workers on the school’s payroll instead of contracting that part out. If the maintenance workers are taken out of the contract, it would drop the contract price by $137,280 each year, and decrease the town’s $258,352 salary savings by $37,280.

“One of our options would be in separating the two,” said Flanagan. “Due to the nature of the contract, the School Committee can cherry pick the parts they want.”

Flanagan said M & M would give consideration to the current custodians during the application process. When the bus drivers were outsourced a few years ago, 70 percent of the bus drivers were rehired, but without health insurance. Flanagan said the custodial union had rejected the school’s final contract proposal that would have seen a 12 percent pay raise over a three year period and an increase in shift differential, but the school sought the power in determining when custodians can return to work after an injury, something the union balked at.

Twenty-year Hoyle School Custodian Robert J. Silva said the custodians didn’t reject the contract and only wanted clarity on the article but no further negotiations have taken place between the schools and the union since.

“We hear it doesn’t look promising and that we will be done soon,” said Silva. “We’ve heard nothing definite yet.”

Silva appeared before the School Committee two weeks ago making a plea for his and his colleagues jobs.

He told the School Committee that the Hoyle school, the youngest of the six in the town, was in deplorable conditions, that parts of the school were “just falling apart” and that outsourcing would make matters much worse.

Last Friday, School Committee Chairwoman Dawn Freitas and Vice Chairwoman Ellen Furtado took a tour of the school, asking the teachers if there were any major issues with the school building and walked the facility with Silva to see any major problems he alluded to at their meeting for themselves. Furtado said Silva complained about classroom tiles that seemed to have missed a coat of wax this past summer, along with faucet and gym door issues.

“He showed me that there was a faucet that was leaking and I asked him if he had the tools to fix it and he said he wasn’t a plumber,” said Furtado. “When we stopped in and asked the teachers about anything falling down in the school, they said their only complaint was that the floors always looked scuffed.”

“All I saw there was normal wear and tear,” said Freitas. “I was not overly concerned about anything I saw there.”


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