Janitors See Big Layoffs Coming As MBTA Seeks Cost Savings
BOSTON - Workers who clean train and bus stations are concerned that changes to their service contract that go into effect this fall, could lead to significant layoffs.
In a letter to the MBTA General Manager and in recent remarks to the T’s Board of Directors, officials with the Service Employees International Union SEIU Local 32BJ District 615, expressed fears that the MBTA’s decision to transition to a “performance-based model for cleaning services” will lead to “excessive cuts to the contracted janitorial workforce,” an “unsustainable increase in workloads” resulting from layoffs, and a negative impact on the quality of cleaning services in stations.
In an analysis of the MBTA’s current 5 year cleaning contract with SJ Services of Danvers, MA and ABM in Atlanta, Georgia, the union sees a reduction in staffing of about 29 percent, or 90 out of 315 janitors. The result, says union officials, of the T’s transition to a “service model in which vendors submitting bids to perform cleaning services were invited to identify staffing levels they proposed to use to meet minimum quality standards, rather than follow prescribed staffing levels.”
Multiple attempts by Open Media Boston to contact SJ Services and ABM were unsuccessful.
According to MBTA spokesperson Joe Pesaturo, bidders for the latest cleaning services contract “were required to maintain current employment levels for at least one year.” Year two of the contract – when the service companies can decrease their staffing levels – begins September first.
In an email, Pesaturo wrote “the goal of a performance-based approach is to provide a cleaner and safer environment for employees and customers, while improving the training and job satisfaction of cleaning employees and saving money.”
According to various media reports, T officials expect to save more than 8 million dollars from cheaper contracts over the next fiscal year.
When asked in a follow-up email how “performance-based” management insures a cleaner and safer environment, Pesaturo responded that “the contractor’s performance can result in penalties or incentive payments,” and that the MBTA “specifically reserves the right to require that contractors make changes to their staffing schedules or cleaning plans if the MBTA, in its sole discretion, determines that such changes are necessary to achieve performance standards at no additional cost to the [Transit] Authority.”
He said potential contractors “were required to submit proposals that are fully compliant with the applicable collective bargaining agreement.”
Pesaturo did not answer questions about specific staffing levels proposed by the contractors.
Prior to signing the new contracts with the two janitorial companies, the T commissioned an independent consultant to study the bidding process and make recommendations. According to the union, certain recommendations made and adopted by the T were “sensible,” including a management approach that organizes the contracts into four geographical work areas. But SEIU is highly critical of reductions in staff work hours approved by the MBTA; cuts, says the union, that are significantly deeper than estimated by the T’s consultant.