On Tuesday, Sept. 3, University President Michael Roth ’78 sent out a campus-wide announcement welcoming students to the new academic year. In his email, President Roth provided an update on student concerns over custodial workloads, which culminated in a series of demonstrations during last year’s WesFest. The United Student/Labor Action Coalition (USLAC) alleged unreasonable workloads for campus custodians who are employed by Service Management Group (SMG), a subcontractor for the University.
“Among those working throughout the summer were the custodians who professionally clean our campus every day,” Roth wrote. “In response to concerns expressed by many students last year, and in collaboration with the workers and SMG, changes are underway to reduce the janitorial workload on campus. We also authorized SMG to hire an additional custodian and will continue efforts with SMG to monitor work assignments.”
Associate Vice President of Facilities Joyce Topshe explained the decision to hire one additional worker came from the data that was gathered last year on custodial workloads, the same data USLAC referenced in its demand for five more workers. Topshe said that the coverage ratio, or cleanable square foot per custodian, was on par with peer schools, but other circumstances contributed to the decision to hire one additional custodian.
“In FY18, Wesleyan’s coverage ratio with 50 custodians was on par with our peers despite the fact that our custodians did not perform as many tasks as the custodians at some peer schools such as changing light bulbs, snow shoveling, and furniture moves,” Topshe wrote in an email to The Argus. “However, our physical profile of smaller, geographically disparate, and historic buildings increases the demands on staffing. Thus, we determined the need for one additional custodian in addition to the changes we made to reduce workloads across campus.”
In addition to hiring one more worker, Topshe said that additional steps are being taken to reduce the overall janitorial workload on campus, including reducing cleanable administrative office space by five buildings and cleanable rental properties by three buildings, as well as reducing the number of waste collection sites from 67 to 13.
Topshe also explained the logistics of hiring an additional worker and the contractual changes associated with that decision.
“Wesleyan has agreed to an increase in the SMG contract to add one custodian,” Topshe wrote. “The full cost of the added position will be funded by Wesleyan…. The position was posted on August 29 and will be up for sevens days per union requirements. Once the slate of interested employees is determined, the position will be filled by SMG utilizing the agreement with the union.”
Topshe emphasized that the office is working directly with workers and SMG in order to continually assess complaints from workers.
“SMG and Wesleyan supervisors are meeting weekly to review the janitorial operations on campus,” Topshe wrote. “SMG will continue to solicit feedback directly from custodians on the changes.”
Jordan Saliby can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.