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UB shifting back to unionized custodians

The University at Buffalo plans to stop outsourcing its custodial work to private companies and return to using unionized employees, school officials said Friday.

UB turned to private custodial companies in 1993, first in new buildings and then as replacements for unionized workers who left their jobs.

The change reduced costs but also caused quality problems because of the high turnover of the private employees, officials said.

"The problem is the wages," said Michael F. Dupre, associate vice president for university facilities.

He said the established minimum prevailing wage for maintenance personnel in the Buffalo area is only $7.03 an hour, which is not high enough to maintain a stable work force.

Today, four private firms provide about 135 custodial workers compared to the 70 or so employees still represented by the Civil Services Employees Association Local 602.

Under a plan devised over the last year or so, Dupre said UB will hire a private company that specializes in managing custodial services to manage its services and will use Local 602 employees to do the work. He said the transition will occur over a three-year period, allowing the private firms to serve out their contracts.

He said it also will likely cost more -- as much as a 30 percent increase, or roughly $7.2 million a year instead of $5.5 million. Dupre also said UB officials still need to hammer out details of the switch with the private companies and the union.

The change in policy comes only a few days before a Tuesday "Justice for Janitors" rally at UB organized by Students Against Sweatshops. The group has argued that the private workers don't make a living wage and that the university should take steps to improve the pay and benefits.

e-mail: hdavis@buffnews.com

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