Custodial Workers Allege Lack of Pay
According to several sources, Sun Services, the subcontractor hired by the University to manage the University’s custodial staff, has allegedly not compensated six or seven workers for overtime hours since Oct. 20. The workers have been paid for working their regular hours. Sun Services denies the allegations.
The Argus interviewed several custodial workers who spoke mainly in Spanish. Their responses were translated by The Argus and by Alma Sanchez-Eppler ’14.
According to some sources, the decision to require the staff to work a certain amount of overtime hours was made as a response to requests by the University.
“The company offers overtime as the University needs people to be working [certain hours],” said Herminia Aranda, one of the custodial workers.
According to Aranda, six or seven people have not been paid since Oct. 20. One person received partial compensation, but the rest have not been paid anything for their overtime work. The workers interviewed also noted that over the summer there were a few similar issues with workers not getting compensated in a timely manner for extra hours.
According to several workers, the managers at Sun Services are not saying that the workers will not be paid for overtime, but rather that they were not aware of the issue and that the workers are going to be paid in the future.
“There were excuses that the supervisors were on vacation, and so they didn’t put in the hours, or that there was not enough money being allotted to Sun Services by the University,” Aranda said.
According to the workers interviewed, some of the workers have stopped working overtime because of concerns regarding compensation.
“There are some people who are no longer taking overtime hours, because they are worried that they will not get paid,” said Fernando Ruiz, another custodial worker.
The workers who were interviewed emphasized that the issue at hand was not with working overtime in general.
“We do not have any problems with working overtime; we have problems with not getting paid for overtime,” Aranda said.
Workers also expressed concern about a scheduling shift that will make some of the staff work for 40 hours in a six-day week instead of 40 hours in a five-day week.
“A lot of people have to come from their houses on Saturday, and some of them are very far away, for only four hours of work,” Ruiz said. “They will lose that day of rest, for only four hours of work.”
“The excuse that Sun Services uses is that this is what the Physical Plant people want,” Aranda said.
Sun Services Managing Member Carolyn Short expressed a different interpretation of the issue of compensation for overtime work.
“My understanding is that a recent issue did arise, and it had to do with the employees swiping in and out of the time clock, and not communicating with the manager with regards to the overtime,” Short said. “My understanding also is that everybody is being paid their overtime in this week’s paycheck.”
According to Short, the issue is that workers did not punch in properly and did not communicate with the manager that they punched in.
“They’ve been told that if they ever have issues with the electronic time clock, punching in or out, they should communicate with the manager that they either have an issue or maybe they forgot,” Short said. “And the exact details of each custodian I do not know, but by the time we know there’s an issue, as you probably realize, the workers are paid for the week before. Once we find out that there’s an issue, we do our research, and we pay them.”
Short noted that it is not common practice for Sun Services not to compensate workers who have clocked in overtime hours.
“Just as a point of interest, since we started the job in May, we have paid well over 2400 hours in overtime, and it’s really not our business practice or our protocol to not pay employees overtime,” she said.
Union Representative Jose Rodriguez said that he was not aware of the fact that multiple workers had not been compensated for recent overtime hours.
“The only claim I got is from Piedad Montero; she was claiming 6 hours overtime payment,” Rodriguez wrote in an email to The Argus. “According to her SUN Services manager, Luis Mariano Pelaez, she will be compensated in this week’s pay roll.”
In addition to alleging lack of compensation for overtime, workers contend that the Sun Services management has also recently posted openings for five positions without properly notifying workers. According to several sources, two of the positions that are now open were until recently filled by workers who are currently on sick leave and who did not receive prior notice of their dismissal. According to Ruiz, some of these positions now include responsibility for additional buildings or changed hours.
The workers noted that one of the positions that is now up for grabs is the position of someone who used to clean for four hours and supervise for four hours. Whoever gets that position would take over four of those hours, plus two hours in overtime.
According to the workers who were interviewed, their main concerns are that they are not being compensated for overtime or being properly notified of personnel changes, and that the extended hours they have received are overburdening the staff. Aranda said that she would like to see Sun Services hire additional personnel, because many of them are working 36 hours a week, and they are often responsible for cleaning three or four buildings in one shift.
“There are three people working in the Butts [Butterfield dorms], Butts A, B, C—three people for the whole [complex],” Aranda said.
The workers also noted that the University does not reimburse workers for gas used in the course of their jobs. Several workers described having to clean several buildings that are on opposite sides of campus during one shift. In order to complete their duties on time, and in case of inclement weather conditions, the workers sometimes use their own vehicles to get from location to location. The workers say that they are either forced to walk across campus multiple times or else spend their own money on gas.
The workers say that the expansion of the number of buildings they are required to clean, as well as the geographic dispersement of these buildings, has resulted not only in stress for the workers but also in cleaning work that is not up to their or the University’s standards. The workers say that there is simply not enough time in their shifts to do their work as well as it needs to be done.
According to notes from a United Student-Labor Action Coalition (USLAC) meeting with the custodial workers, some workers have received extended hours, and some of them now have to work from 4 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Those workers will be paid regular wages, not overtime.
According to the notes, the workers and USLAC are planning several direct actions. They also plan to contact several University administrators and the Human Rights Watch.