Effective May 1, the University’s custodial work will be contracted through Sun Services LLC rather than ABM Industries, which has been the University’s contractor for nearly two decades. Earlier this week, some custodians were under the impression that Sun planned to lay off as many as ten employees, but Sun management and union representatives agreed Wednesday that no positions would be cut.
“The major thing is that they will retain the 60 workers,” said SEIU Local 32BJ Field Representative Jose Rodriguez. “We’re still figuring out the workload, but problems will be addressed by the grievance process if we have to.”
A selection committee that included administrators, Physical Plant Facility Managers, and two students chose Sun from a pool of ten companies that submitted bids. According to the University’s Director of Media Relations David Pesci, the company was chosen based on their experience, level of environmental sustainability, and management capabilities. Sun is a family-owned business based in Shelton, Connecticut, with contracts at other universities in the state.
In evaluating the bids, the committee did not look at the company’s financial proposals. Instead, the final fee was negotiated after Sun was selected. Alma Sanchez-Eppler ’14, one of the two student representatives on the selection committee and a member of The United Student Labor Action Coalition (USLAC), said that she believes the selection process was in good faith, but she still has reservations about accountability to employees within the industry as a whole.
“I can vouch that the process for choosing the contractor was fair,” she said. “I can vouch that we didn’t look at money. I can vouch that we picked the company that seems to be most concerned with having a good workspace for their employees, but I can’t vouch for the industry.”
Earlier this semester, some custodians reported that they had experienced dramatic increases in their workloads over the past two years, as ten additional buildings were added to ABM’s contract but no new custodians were hired to carry out the task. Sun’s Vice President of Sales Michelle Michad said that the company’s operations managers are currently in the process of surveying campus and meeting with Physical Plant administrators to assess how to best redistribute work.
“The first thirty days are going to be a transition period,” Michad said. “We’ll have to make a lot of adjustments based on areas, schedules, and production rates.”
Michad said that Sun also plans to introduce new technologies such as backpack and wide-angle vacuums with the intent of reducing workloads and energy consumption. She also said that Sun managers were impressed by the committee’s focus on the custodians’ well-being.
“We really were encouraged by how concerned Wesleyan was as a whole about the employees,” Michad said. “They wanted to make sure everyone was treated well and fairly. Students seem to care a lot and I think that’s a good thing.”