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Clark: Outsourcing Has Worked

by Melissa Bailey | Nov 30, 2012 4:43 pm

(40) Comments | Commenting has been closed | E-mail the Author

Posted to: Labor, Schools

Melissa Bailey Photo Nearly a year after the New Haven’s schools got rid of a third of their unionized custodians, privatization has produced cleaner buildings and $1 million in overtime savings, argued Chief Operating Officer Will Clark. One laid-off custodian warned the changes come at a human cost.

Clark made the case in a tour Wednesday of two city schools—one that has been privatized entirely, and another that’s running on a hybrid union-private

The tour came about 10 months after an arbitration decision paved the way for the school district to privatize a third of its unionized custodial workforce.

The city removed the union presence from a half-dozen schools, including three large high schools, Hill Regional Career, Wilbur Cross and James Hillhouse.

At other schools, it has kept two full-time union workers, supplemented by new part-time, non-union workers from a Cleveland-based company called GCA Services Group, Inc.

The city’s school custodial staff now includes 100 unionized workers in AFSCME Local 287; 162 part-time workers in GCA; and five full-time custodians who work for AFB, a Bridgeport-based company hired to manage the city school buildings.

The new hybrid model allows the school district much more flexibility, leading to cleaner schools with fewer worker hours, argued Clark.

The school system is on track to save $1 million in overtime costs, and a total of $4 million per year in total cleaning costs, thanks to the new contract, Clark said. That’s on track with the projections on which the city budget is based, he said. 

Not everyone is happy with the changes. A group of custodians disgruntled with the new system is gunning to topple the custodial union leadership. The group argues that the new system places too much burden on unionized workers, takes away overtime pay, and holds them responsible for the work of the privatized part-timers, said custodian Rafael Crespo.

The union opposed privatization because it was “putting gainfully employed custodians out of work and replacing them with part-time workers with no benefits, lower pay and no rights on the job. That is never good for economic recovery and renewal, whether it’s in New Haven or anywhere else,” said AFSCME spokesman Larry Dorman. However, the union leadership supported the partial privatization plan because it kept 100 union jobs.

Clark Wednesday showed off two buildings he said have been transformed under the new model.

At Career High School, Clark was met at the door not by a unionized worker, but by Billy DiStefano, a head custodian employed by AFB. DiStefano’s job title is “building manager.” That means he’s the main point-person for running the 160,000-square-foot building, which serves over 700 kids.

Under the old union contract, seven full-time workers cleaned Career High, Clark said. Now there are only two full-time workers, DiStefano and an assistant who works the night shift. Seven part-time workers from GCA help him keep the building clean.

All told, the new cleaning team at Career represents two fewer employees in terms of man hours, Clark calculated. DiStefano makes $50,000 plus benefits working for AFB. The workers get paid local minimum wage, which was just raised to $14.67 for city contractors, and no benefits.

Shawn Goodhue (pictured at the top of this story), one of those GCA workers, cleans up during lunchtime five days a week, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. On Tuesday, he seized a moment between lunch waves to toss out a round of trash. Later, he would sweep and mop.

Goodhue lives off of Whalley Avenue. He was one of many New Haveners, many of them out of work, who lined up last December to score new part-time jobs that opened up as the school system cut back its unionized workforce. He said the part-time gig is the only job he has.

Unlike the union workers, Goodhue isn’t guaranteed work every day. If schools have a half day or are closed for Election Day, he may not be called to work. On the flip side, he could be called in for extra work if Career has a basketball game at night. 

Clark said the new system is more flexible and efficient. There used to be a groundsman who focused only on the school grounds, and a pool guy who just tended to the pool. Now DiStefano checks the chemicals in the pool every day. And he keeps up with the leaves and the lawn with the help of his part-time crew. The GCA workers go where they’re needed, when they’re needed.

“We can make them do anything,” Clark said.

As a result, Career is much cleaner than it was last year, Clark said.

Principal Madeline Negrón, who wasn’t at Career last year, said she has heard good reviews from her staff.

“They feel the building is cleaner this year. They seem to be pleased,” she said.

He said he doesn’t blame the unionized custodians who worked there last year. “We weren’t staffed properly to the way it was used,” he said.

For example, Career used to have seven full-time workers cleaning all summer. This summer, the crew did minimal cleaning while summer programs took place. Then, the last week and a half before school started, AFB brought in an “army” of guys to strip and wax floors. The guys came from the union and from GCA.

Rigid Rules Bypassed

Unionized workers were freed up to take part in that army, Clark said, because they weren’t lingering at other schools. At a school like Worthington Hooker, which had no summer programs, custodians cleaned the school early in the summer, then locked it up and helped out on other assignments—something they weren’t able to do under previous union rules.

Under the new contract, if your building is clean, “we don’t need you sitting there doing nothing,” Clark said. The workers can move somewhere else.

With the newfound flexibility, AFB rounded up a hybrid crew of union and non-union workers to redo 17 gym floors over the summer, Clark said. The district used to subcontract that work. Keeping it in-house saved about $50,000, he estimated.

In a brief tour through Career, DiStefano showed off a sparkling gym floor, a clean pool, and shiny hallways. A glimpse into a bathroom revealed some ongoing challenges: Students had again ripped the soap dispenser off the wall.

And graffiti was scrawled on a bathroom door. DiStefano said he has ordered a special bonding agent that will help his crew paint over the graffiti. Clark said the school system has a new system of tracking these problems and providing information on vandalism back to school leaders so they can address them.

Schools that still have a union presence are also cleaner than they were last year, Clark argued. For a case in point, he rolled up to Clinton Avenue School, a K-8 in Fair Haven.

There, he met Dominic Piscopo, the “building manager,” aka head custodian. Piscopo works for Local 287. With 10 years on the job, he’s an example of a less veteran worker who was able to jump into a leadership position he never would have had with previous union rules, Clark said.

When the new contract took effect in January, the district re-classified all the custodians’ jobs. All the custodians had to reapply for one of four jobs. They sat down for interviews. They were judged on three factors: job knowledge, attendance, and disciplinary record.

Some workers were surprised to find out that seniority didn’t factor into whether they were deemed eligible for the job. Some veteran custodians with decades on the job didn’t make the cut, in some cases because of absenteeism or disciplinary problems. Fifteen got laid off in July as the schools cut back the number of unionized jobs.

Piscopo, who had a good record, had been a night crew leader at Hooker School. He got chosen as one of 38 new “building managers,” the top custodians in charge of individual schools. In the previous system of seniority, he never would have been allowed that promotion.

He jumped the line, but he jumped “an archaic, illogical line” based on old union rules, Clark argued. In his new job, Piscopo has much more responsibility. He has to change filters on heating systems, deal with computers, and serve as the main point-person for the principal on all matters related to the school building and grounds. When he gets off his shift at 4 p.m., he directs the night crew on what to clean.

The four new jobs pay as follow: Building managers make $24.64 per hour; assistant building managers $21.96; “floaters” $19.72; and drivers $22.20.

Enter The “Floater”

Most days, Piscopo works alone during the day. Sometimes, a man named Bruce Barros, Sr. shows up to help him out.

Barros (pictured) is a “floater.” That’s a new job created in January by the new union contract.

In the past, if a union worker was absent, the district had to pay another full-time worker overtime to fill in for the shift. Because of the high rate of absenteeism—on any given day, 25 percent of custodians were absent, according to the city—the school board had to pay a lot of overtime hours.

Now, if someone’s absent, the school system calls Barros or one of his eight fellow floaters. Barros never knows where he’ll be on a given day.

“They call me in the morning and I show up at a school,” Barros said. He works full-time, from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.

On Wednesday, he helped Piscopo with the lunch wave and tossed the trash out behind the school.

The use of floaters, combined with the layoffs of some more truant workers, has led to a significant decrease in overtime costs, Clark said. So has the use of part-timers: Now, instead of hiring workers overtime to staff special events such as basketball games, the schools can use part-timers from GCA.

The new system led to significant savings, Clark said. The Floyd Little Field House at Hillhouse used zero overtime hours over the summer, saving $21,632, he said. The number of summer overtime hours across the city dropped dramatically from 9,690 to 1,956, a savings of $247,000 between the summer of 2012 and 2011, Clark said.

The school system is on track to save $1 million per year due to overtime hours alone, Clark said.

Shouldering The Blame?

Melissa Bailey Photo Not everyone’s happy about that switch.

Crespo (pictured), who got laid off June 30, said he talks regularly to fellow custodians on the job. The new system places too much burden on the building managers, he said. “They’re holding our guys accountable for GCA guys’ behavior.”

Clark applauded the savings earned during days when schools are closed, such as the Friday after Thanksgiving. But Crespo said those savings come at a human cost.

“Of course you’re going to save money, because you’re leaving the work up to a couple of people,” Crespo said. “They pull out everyone from GCA, and leave all the work to our people.” Building managers like Piscopo are “doing two to three jobs on one salary.”

What’s more, the union workers aren’t getting the overtime pay they used to count on, Crespo argued.

He said he’s part of a disgruntled supporters rallying around a new candidate, Warren Spanner, in a Dec. 14 election for union president. Spanner is running against President Robert Montuori on a slate of custodians unhappy with the new privatized system. Crespo said custodians backing Spanner can’t change the contract, but they want to start filing more grievances. So far, the union has not filed any grievances about the new system, according to Clark.

Montuori, who couldn’t be reached for this story (he was on vacation), supported a proposed labor contract that called for privatizing a third of the workforce. He argued it was as a better option than wholesale privatization. His membership, however, rejected that contract—then got a very similar deal through binding arbitration.

Click here to read the new union contract.

AFSCME spokesman Dorman said his union never wanted to privatize school cleaning, but union members are doing the best they can given the system arbitrators handed down.

“Our members are tremendously committed and caring employees. They want their schools to be safe and functional and clean and fully operational. They care about their jobs,” Dorman said.

If the schools are looking cleaner this year, Dorman said, “it reinforces the importance and the value of having a unionized workforce cleaning the New Haven schools.”

Clark argued that though the privatized workers don’t have job security or benefits, they can get good training at an entry-level job in a growing industry. He said the new system shows there’s a place for privatized workers—and for a core of unionized workers like Piscopo who take ownership of their school and support the part-time workers who “just come in to clean.”

After touring visitors around his building, Piscopo got right back to work. He jumped in the seat of a battery-powered auto scrubber and tackled the detritus left on the cafeteria floor from the final lunch wave. The machine can clean 34,000 square feet per hour and uses 70 percent less water than conventional scrubbers, said Clark, so the floor would be dry in no time.

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posted by: anonymous on November 30, 2012  7:06pm

Everything is going to keep declining, including wages, unless the unions works to promote social equity more generally. Arguing for higher wages when half the city pays more than 50% of income toward rent and has trouble finding work at all, much less union jobs, is not a winning strategy. Instead of fighting DeStefano the unions should fight for residency requirements for workers, better urban infrastructure, an end to free parking lots for city employees, an end to “overtime” pay, cuts in pensions (withsavings used to guarantee universal PreK for babies, our most important asset), and more progressive state taxes. Camden announced it is laying off its entire unionized police force and getting private security. Unions need to see the writing on the wall.

posted by: Nashstreeter on November 30, 2012  10:00pm

This is just freaking medieval, as inadvertently summed up by Will Clark: “The GCA workers go where they’re needed, when they’re needed. ‘We can make them do anything,’ Clark said.” All that, with no benefits and no regular hours. The school system is saving tons of money by exploiting people desperate for a job—any job. I am ashamed for my city.

posted by: IraSpaner on December 1, 2012  1:22pm

One ‘n’ in Spaner.  Thanks.

posted by: jayfairhaven on December 1, 2012  1:31pm

deep breaths nashstreeter. unless you’re able to offer a better opportunity to these employees you’re in no position to be ashamed for anyone.  if the secret to providing tons of great jobs was being inefficient, the schools could be cleaned by toothbrush by an army of custodians.

posted by: Brutus2011 on December 1, 2012  3:43pm

If COO Clark’s point is that we are saving money, then of course it probably makes sense to save money.

But one must ask how this savings might compare with cutting managerial, or administrative, expenses—especially considering pension costs for the administrative or management class.

In fact, why do we have a private sector position (COO or Chief Operating Officer) in a public sector agency where there is already a Superintendent of Schools? And numerous assistants to assistants, etc.

The mayor has erected a patronage system that has as its pillar this management class. Sounds good, but

New Haven is not a privately owned company or entity.

The City of New Haven does not need a management class with its attendant costs and shenanigans.

This article is a prime example of what ails us—the suspender class, or wall street executive wanna-bes, has taken over while the rest of us sleep or take whatever crumbs that are left.

If we elect these self-serving management idolaters again in November, then we deserve every bit of what we get.

posted by: Threefifths on December 1, 2012  4:25pm

posted by: anonymous on November 30, 2012 6:06pm

Everything is going to keep declining, including wages, unless the unions works to promote social equity more generally

Wrong.Everything is going to keep declining due to this.

Former Hostess Twinkies CEO tripled salary to $2.5m while preparing to file bankruptcy

http://americablog.com/2012/11/hostess-twinkie-ceo-salary.html

And all they do is Blame the unions.Do not worry. Outsourcing Has never Worked.

posted by: HillVilleAnnex on December 1, 2012  8:29pm

I’m a life-long resident, home owner, tax payer and parent.  I have children that attend New Haven public schools.  I was a student in New Haven public schools myself.  However, I am not a college graduate but through hard work and letting that work speak for me, I’ve done OK for myself and been able to get a piece of the american dream for my family.

I do support a residency requirement for city workers and a residency preference for vendors and vendor employees.  I’m not a supporter of the “job security argument” for unions.  My belief is that one’s job performance and a winning attitude will provide all of security and opportunity that person needs.  If you have a solid attendance record, show up ready to do your part and have a winning attitude, you’re going to win in life.  Someone is always going to want you to be a member of their team.

As a tax payer and parent of children in New Haven Public Schools, I will not accept solutions that do not work.  I will not accept mediocrity when my tax dollars paying for city programs and services.

posted by: robn on December 1, 2012  11:26pm

NSHTRTR,
The system has changed from one in which millions of OT dollars were gamed by redistribution of hours through fraudulent sick outs to a system of flexible redistribution of workload. What’s to be ashamed about??

posted by: Threefifths on December 2, 2012  11:56am

posted by: robn on December 1, 2012 10:26pm

NSHTRTR,
The system has changed from one in which millions of OT dollars were gamed by redistribution of hours through fraudulent sick outs to a system of flexible redistribution of workload. What’s to be ashamed about??

Can you prove that there was fraudulent sick outs.As long as a person has a doctors note it is not.

posted by: robn on December 2, 2012  12:23pm

3/5,

I don’t have to prove anything. The NHI has already reported sick-time abuse as a factor for the city laying off custodians.
http://www.newhavenindependent.org/index.php/archives/entry/15_custodians_laid_off/

(BTW, sometime you should try doing your own reasearch instead of wasting other people’s time.)

posted by: Nashstreeter on December 2, 2012  3:02pm

It’s not up to me, jayfairhaven, to offer employment. It’s up to the City of New Haven, to whom I pay taxes. I am ashamed they have chosen to offer bad jobs at low wages to people who have little recourse but to take them.

HillVilleAnnex, you certainly have a sunny outlook. You are blessed by being kept from the knowledge that there is unfairness in the world, that bad things happen to good people, that doing one’s part and having a winning attitude are NOT all you need to win in life.

robn, I have no problem with a flexible distribution of workload, as long as it’s fair and the employees get to participate in running that system. But ‘We can make them do anything” is a Lord/Serf system of management. The point of having a union is to protect workers from management like this. I have no knowledge of the intricacies of the maintenance union’s contract. Maybe it’s a good one, or maybe not. But it IS a contract, and a contract is the only thing, often, that stands between someone being treated like a serf or treated like a human being.

I venture to say that nearly all of us at one time or another have suffered under a vindictive boss, chaotic or irrational work rules, abusive management practices, race or sex discrimination. And we might not have been in a position to stand up and say “I quit.” A contract would have given us a way to improve our work lives without the risk of being fired.

And I don’t know what the city’s problems with sick days were, but I’ll confess that, even though I am otherwise perfect, I have sometimes called in sick when I wasn’t really sick. If there was a lot of that going on, I think it’s a sign of a toxic work situation, and any manager with half a brain would have tried to figure out what was really going on.

posted by: robn on December 2, 2012  5:56pm

NSHSTRTR,

The fact is that there was abusive taking of sick days that pumped up OT to the tune of millions of taxpayer dollars. There was also evidence of lounging when there should have been cleaning. The new system is a product of the toxicity caused by abuse of the former contract.

posted by: streever on December 2, 2012  6:14pm

I think Robn and Nasthstreeter both make good points.

As Robn says, the previous behavior was abysmal.
As Nashstreeter says, good management would have largely mitigated or eliminated the behavior.

Unfortunately, New Haven is not a city known for effective employee management, and many of the individuals who work for the city seem terrified of disciplining or having difficult conversations with staff.

Perhaps instead of outsourcing the low-level jobs, we should outsource the management?

posted by: Nashstreeter on December 2, 2012  7:08pm

Yay Streever. Good management and a better contract would both have helped. Sounds like there was huge amounts of distrust on both sides. As probably anybody who’s been in he military knows, when the system is irrational and unfair, you do what you can to scam it—for self-preservation’s sake.

There’s still no excuse for contracting with a private company (hey, THEY have a contract) that’s going to do the dirty work for you and make a profit from taking away benefits, work hours and a decent standard of living from its employees. The profit motive has no place in city services. “Private” is kind of like, you know, the opposite of “public.”

posted by: Threefifths on December 2, 2012  11:18pm

posted by: robn on December 2, 2012 11:23am

3/5,

I don’t have to prove anything. The NHI has already reported sick-time abuse as a factor for the city laying off custodians.

Let us read it.His story fits a pattern of several workers interviewed: They had called in sick a lot.

Sick time was a major factor in the city’s quest to privatize the custodial workforce. On any given day, 25 percent of custodians would be absent “because of contractual work rules which promote abuse of sick time and excessive call-outs,” mayoral Chief of Staff Sean Matteson has said. The arrangement was costly because the city had to hire part-time workers to cover those shifts. In a comment to the Independent, Matteson put the blame on “a set of work rules His story fits a pattern of several workers interviewed: They had called in sick a lot.


What are the work rules which foster these types of abuses. Are they in wrting.Show them to us.Again management side.

Workers interviewed said they never broke any policy. Custodians accrued sick days according to how many days they worked.Notice they earn there sick time.


“I never took a sick day that I didn’t have,” said William Jackson.

Jackson said he took 22 sick days last year. “A lot of it had to do with my wife. She was out of work for three months,” he said.


We never had a sick policy that if you take this many sick days you get in trouble,” William Jackson explained. He said his disciplinary record was clean.

There was “no sick policy in the contract,” he said, “so how could you use that against me?”

Workers side.Again were is the sick policy at show it to us.Also how do you know they didnot have medical documentaion for the days the took.My bad.How do you know if there were not on Family and Medical Leave Act.How about this.After spending six months as “temporary floaters,” workers were notified of their pending layoffs in a meeting on June 21. They were given an option to take two weeks’ severance pay and another month of medical coverage—if they signed an agreement not to sue the city.Notice they could not sue the city.Why would the city put that in there?You need to read robin.Outsourcing Has never Worked.

posted by: HhE on December 3, 2012  12:20am

While I objected to privatisation when it was first proposed, and there are a number of things about this system that leave a very bad taste in my mouth, the union and its members are largely to blame for this.

They were abusing sick time (and no 3/5ths, a doctor’s note does not necessarily mean it was not fraudulent.  There are many doctors who will lie for a—paying—patient.), and not working diligently.  Had the Custodians had a earned a reputation for hard work—as the custodians in a number of schools do—they could have had community support

Union’s do have a role protecting employees from bad bosses (been there), but when they protect bad work practises…


It is not the role of the city to provide employment any more than it is ours.  (When the city des employ people, it is our tax dollars that pay for it.)  City employees ought to provide more value than they cost to employ.  The same for any employee, public or prprivate

posted by: Nashstreeter on December 3, 2012  2:49am

Let me get this straight. The workers were “abusing” sick time by taking the time they were allowed to take by getting doctors to lie for them. This “forced” the city to hire substitutes, but for some reason the city had to pay overtime wages for them. All of this (contractually agreed upon) sick time caused the city to bring in an outside contractor who could hire new workers at half the wages with no benefits OR sick time. This is the union’s fault?

I don’t get this “it’s all the union’s fault” deal. Sometimes I think that blaming “the unions”  (it’s never a specific union—just all of them) comes from envy: they got cushy jobs and I don’t. Or maybe it comes from just plain ignorance: what do unions do, anyway. Or even from bitter experience: I paid my dues and my union never helped me out when I needed it. Whatever it is, when people use this “explanation,” they have to get specific. Like, the maintenance workers union built into their contract that their members could take a lot of sick days, which would come in handy if they needed surgery or chemotherapy or something like that. Or that they thought, “this would be a good way for our members to slack off work and still get paid!”  Is anybody on these comments willing to assert (with documentation) that building slack-off time into the union contract was part of the union’s agenda? That the union figured they could run up the city’s costs with sick days?

Hhe, it IS the role of the city to provide employment—good employment. The city needs energized and competent people to do what our tax dollars pay for. It is not only unconscionable but counter-productive for it to farm this obligation out to greedy companies intent on making a profit by under-paying their workers. If we want to build up our tax-paying, home-buying, civic-minded middle class, then contracting out our public obligations to profit-hungry bottom feeders is definitely not going to get us there.

posted by: Teacher in New Haven on December 3, 2012  8:59am

I think this issue is quite simple. 

For the better part of 10 years I have worked in a building that got dirtier every year.  While there was nominally at least one union custodian in the building every day, they spent very little time cleaning.

Then we got rid of them, and privatized.  The school has never been cleaner.

I am a big believer in unions, but a Union Job is still a Job.  If the Union becomes an obstacle to doing the Job, then perhaps it is time for the union to go.

posted by: Adam E on December 3, 2012  9:52am

Just one add-on to Teacher in New Haven’s point: not only are the schools cleaner, but this additional value is costing the city/taxpayers a lot less money.  While there is certainly a group of people who are visibly negatively affected by this (the workers who lost their jobs/benefits), do not forget that the $4M projected to be freed up by this initiative can now be used to promote employment in other areas.

posted by: Noteworthy on December 3, 2012  11:40am

Privatizing some of the school custodian work probably saves money and overall, I have mixed feelings about the benefits of it. But let’s be very clear about one aspect of this discussion: Any abuse of overtime, of sick time, and any and all cases of dirty schools and poor performance on the job are a direct result of old fashioned mismanagement. These things happen when the rules aren’t followed, employees not disciplined, supervisors not checking up on workers and patronage hires. When there is employee unrest, you have an ineffective management.

Likewise, things may be better now - but it’s not some magical privatization pill that custodial staff all took along with kool-aide. It’s because management is on top of things and they are not going days, weeks and months without addressing shortcomings and failing to detail expectations and penalties for not meeting them.

posted by: Threefifths on December 3, 2012  1:56pm

posted by: HhE on December 2, 2012 11:20pm

They were abusing sick time (and no 3/5ths, a doctor’s note does not necessarily mean it was not fraudulent.  There are many doctors who will lie for a—paying—patient.), and not working diligently

Again were is the proof that they were abusing sick time.Also if there doctors are lying then why did the city not File complaints against these doctors?In fact how come the workers were brought up on charges.

Union’s do have a role protecting employees from bad bosses (been there), but when they protect bad work practises…

And management does not protect there bad work practises?In fact union workers get fired before managent does.

It is not the role of the city to provide employment any more than it is ours.  (When the city des employ people, it is our tax dollars that pay for it.)  City employees ought to provide more value than they cost to employ.  The same for any employee, public or prprivate.

So should we come back to the spoil system AKA known as a patronage system.Which was a practice where the crooked two political party system after winning an election,gives government jobs to its voters as a reward for working toward victory, and as an incentive to keep working for the party as opposed to a merit system, where offices are awarded on the basis of some measure of merit, independent of political activity.How many of the people who work upper management for the city benfit from the spoil system.Also I am sick of the My tax dollars people.City and State workers are Tax payers to.As I said Outsourcing Has never Worked.P.S my Bad.Check this out.How do we know the mob is not a part of the job.One of the problems with Outsourcing is most have ties to the mob.

Why the Mafia Loves Garbage

Hauling trash and organized crime.

By Michelle Tsai|Posted Friday, Jan. 11, 2008, at 3:56 PM ET

Here’s how it works: The mob organizes the trash-hauling businesses in a given city to prevent competition from driving down prices. They fix prices, rig bids, and allocate territories in such a way that customers can’t choose who picks up their garbage.

Read the rest.

http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/expla

posted by: Threefifths on December 3, 2012  1:58pm

posted by: Teacher in New Haven on December 3, 2012 7:59am

I think this issue is quite simple.

For the better part of 10 years I have worked in a building that got dirtier every year.  While there was nominally at least one union custodian in the building every day, they spent very little time cleaning

And one can say for the past 10 years teachers have been falling students.You point.

posted by: streever on December 3, 2012  2:32pm

I think Noteworthy is spot-on. Where are the performance reviews and “report cards” for the unionized custodians?

Most companies don’t just operate in vague ambiguous parameters: supervisors have actual reports they do on their staff, which are shared with the staff.

In programming, we keep track of time to completion, sit down and talk to programmers about their performance by objective standards (a classroom ranked a 2 on a scale of 1-5 for instance?), and give feedback and ongoing evaluation.

As a public institution, the school should have some record of the employee evaluation processes, and should have an investment in making those public.

posted by: Teacher in New Haven on December 3, 2012  3:59pm

3/5ths

My point is that union or no, custodians (and teachers) have a Job to do.

The union should not make it possible to take the city’s money without doing the job.

The same rule holds in my mind for teachers.

posted by: Threefifths on December 3, 2012  9:17pm

posted by: Teacher in New Haven on December 3, 2012 2:59pm

3/5ths

My point is that union or no, custodians (and teachers) have a Job to do.

The union should not make it possible to take the city’s money without doing the job.

The same rule holds in my mind for teachers

And for those who are not doing there job.The city has the right to bring these workers up on charges.So So again your point.

posted by: HhE on December 3, 2012  10:49pm

Nashstreeter, short answer; yes.

Long answer; We live in a world of “perception is reality.”  I don’t care for that, so let’s use “perception as reality.”  The unionized custodians were perceived as taking advantaged of work rules and grossly under performing.  I think that perception was largely justified. 

Streever is right (as usual) that better management would have been a better solution than simply privatizing.  Unfortunately, many municipalities see employing a private management company as a good “cut out.”  So in with privatisation, which is cheaper and easier than doing it oneself.  (Please keep in mind the number of law suits this city has faced/is facing over employment issues.)

Had the custodians made a good case for “We do a very good job, we do not take advantage, and we only seek to be treated fairly.” they would not be in this pickle. 

The union leadership (which is elected by the rank and file) is culpable.  They could have easily said to those members that were letting down the team,‘You are making all of us look bad, you are not working to rule, and we will not protect you.”  In one school district I worked in, the union president’s annual welcome back speech always ended with, “and get your grades in on time.”  Which was his way of saying, you fail to do, we will not help you.  In a school I student taught in, where the union was very, very strong, the principal once addressed the staff about having two days of emergency sub plans on file.  Then he said, your union rep is going to say a few words to you.  The union rep got up, and said, “You must have two days of sub plans on file.  It is a contractual obligation.  The union will not protect you.”

It is NOT the role of the city to provide employment.  It is the role of the city to provide services (police, fire, schools, parks, and all that).  This in turn requires employing people.  The best way to do that is to provide fair compensation, appropriate working conditions, and supervision.  Of course attracting and retaining good people is a good idea, the past arrangement was not an example of this. 

The current method takes advantage of non unionized works, and I find that objectionable to.

posted by: HhE on December 3, 2012  10:54pm

3/5ths, Teacher in New Haven has made her/his point abundantly clear, and it is well said and based upon direct observation.  To continually ask someone what their point is just because you disagree with them is bad form and poor argumentation. 

If you wish more clarification on my position, please read my response to Nashstreeter.

posted by: Threefifths on December 4, 2012  2:10am

posted by: HhE on December 3, 2012 9:49pm

Nashstreeter, short answer; yes.

Long answer; We live in a world of “perception is reality.”  I don’t care for that, so let’s use “perception as reality.”  The unionized custodians were perceived as taking advantaged of work rules and grossly under performing.  I think that perception was largely justified.

Perception and proof are two different things.People have been set up on perception.

Had the custodians made a good case for “We do a very good job, we do not take advantage, and we only seek to be treated fairly.” they would not be in this pickle

This was already in the works.

It is NOT the role of the city to provide employment.  It is the role of the city to provide services (police, fire, schools, parks, and all that).  This in turn requires employing people.  The best way to do that is to provide fair compensation, appropriate working conditions, and supervision.  Of course attracting and retaining good people is a good idea, the past arrangement was not an example of this.

And this is why you have something Civil Service Examination for these jobs.Anyone can take the test.

The current method takes advantage of non unionized works, and I find that objectionable to.

And the non unionized workers benfit from union gains.Also all in Non Unionized jobs can start a union and get the same benfits as the union jobs.What are you waiting for.In fact I will bring the cards to anyone of you.

posted by: HhE on December 4, 2012  10:02am

3/5ths

1.  An ironic thing for you to say, me thinks.  As I said in my post, I take issue with “perception as reality.”

2.  A case of too little, too late. 

3.  Civil Service Exams are a tool, they are not a substitute for good supervision, unless one has developed a test that can determine a person’s work ethic, now and in the future.

4.  Knock yourself out.

posted by: owlmanatt on December 4, 2012  4:05pm

3/5ths: I would like to point out that they were not ‘abusing’ the sick days if their contract doesn’t actually treat them any differently from vacation days, which is the impression I’m getting.

It’s an extremely bad situation for the city and the taxpayers, and certainly ethically questionable on the part of the worker, but if their use of sick days is in compliance with the agreement, the blame rests with the City. Whoever negotiated that agreement did a poor job and did not serve the needs of the public.

posted by: robn on December 4, 2012  5:15pm

The city doesn’t need to have a policy about sick days because the term is self-explanatory. A “Sick Day” is for when you’re sick. A “Vacation Day” is discretionary; for whatever you want. A “Personal Day” is something in between.

posted by: Threefifths on December 4, 2012  8:31pm

posted by: owlmanatt on December 4, 2012 3:05pm

3/5ths: I would like to point out that they were not ‘abusing’ the sick days if their contract doesn’t actually treat them any differently from vacation days, which is the impression I’m getting.

You need to read what I wrote.There was “no sick policy in the contract,” he said, “so how could you use that against me?”

Workers side.Again were is the sick policy at show it to us.Also how do you know they didnot have medical documentaion for the days the took

It’s an extremely bad situation for the city and the taxpayers, and certainly ethically questionable on the part of the worker, but if their use of sick days is in compliance with the agreement, the blame rests with the City. Whoever negotiated that agreement did a poor job and did not serve the needs of the public.

Agree.

posted by: Threefifths on December 4, 2012  8:44pm

posted by: HhE on December 4, 2012 9:02am

3/5ths

I will answer number 3.

  Civil Service Exams are a tool, they are not a substitute for good supervision, unless one has developed a test that can determine a person’s work ethic, now and in the future


Civil service exams are not tools.They are intended as a method to achieve an effective, rational public administration on a merit system.In fact supervision must take Civil service exams for promotion.Did you know that Civil service exams were call imperial examinations of ancient China.Russia implemented such procedures in the turn of the 19th century.Even the United Kingdom has Civil service exams.They are call Her Majesty’s Home Civil Service.

posted by: Threefifths on December 4, 2012  8:50pm

posted by: robn on December 4, 2012 4:15pm

The city doesn’t need to have a policy about sick days because the term is self-explanatory. A “Sick Day” is for when you’re sick. A “Vacation Day” is discretionary; for whatever you want. A “Personal Day” is something in between.

But they do have a policy.You bring a doctors not after 3days of being out.You say A “Sick Day” is for when you’re sick.So what would you say about The Family Medical Leave Act.

posted by: HhE on December 4, 2012  10:47pm

3/5ths, I dare say I know a lot more than you about the Chinese tradition of exams and their costs.  I hardly find anything positive about “Imperial Russian.”  I’m down with Her Majesty’s Government, the Queen and all that.  So that’s one for three, hardly an overwhelming win. 

By your logic must be an amazing teacher.  I scored 98th percentile in the NTE subject test/Conntent, and 95th, 75th, and 93rd on the NTE core battery.  Yet, I was never asked for my scores during an interview, nor were they ever consulted during performance evaluations. 

Civil service exams can test knowledge and some skills.  They cannot test integrity, work ethic, persistence, and all those other things that really matter in an employee. 

So they are a tool, and one I would take over patronage, but they are not an effective solve all.  QED

posted by: Edward_H on December 5, 2012  3:25am

RE: posted by: robn on December 2, 2012 11:23am

Robn

I don’t know how much you know about rap but when I was growing up that comment is what we used to call “dropping the mic” on someone!

posted by: Threefifths on December 5, 2012  9:14am

posted by: HhE on December 4, 2012 9:47pm

By your logic must be an amazing teacher.  I scored 98th percentile in the NTE subject test/Conntent, and 95th, 75th, and 93rd on the NTE core battery.  Yet, I was never asked for my scores during an interview, nor were they ever consulted during performance evaluations.

There is still a oral interview in Civil Service Exams.Ask those who take the test for police,Fireman and major of those who take the Civil Service Exams.

Civil service exams can test knowledge and some skills.  They cannot test integrity, work ethic, persistence, and all those other things that really matter in an employee.

You can test integrity, work ethic.It is call work evaluations.

So they are a tool, and one I would take over patronage, but they are not an effective solve all. QED

And what is.The good thing about Civil Service Exams is it cuts down on nepotism.

posted by: robn on December 5, 2012  9:41am

EDWARDH,

Doesn’t matter. 3/5 arguments often contain a tiny barely-legitimizing kernal of truth surrounded by a thick layer of diversion and obfuscation. Inevitably and without logic, the culprit is either a union hater, the crooked two party system, or a judas goat.

posted by: marey on December 5, 2012  2:11pm

In every job there are those who work and those who just receive the pay check.  With the union involved it would be harder to let a person go for not doing their job BUT you can not state that all custodians abused this or even abused sick time.  There were custodians who worked for years without taking a sick day only their vacation time.  Why is it that the good had to sacrifice for the bad.  Why didn’t just discipline those abusers and keep the custodians under their own local.  I bet the Union president and his executive board got really got jobs and fringe benefits.  As far as the private companies that are working in our school system, are they checking to see if they have a criminal history, I don’t think so.  I have been a resident, tax payer and parent of school children in the New Haven area all my life, I go to the school and see at least 5 people besides the “floater” who is union working and I don’t see the school any cleaner then it was before.  Let me tell you at Columbus School the previous custodian had that school sparkling, used his own money at times to fix things and he was forced to retire before time because of his age. I guess he figured he knew what you have but not sure of what was coming so he got out.  What a shame!

posted by: duncanidaho645 on December 6, 2012  2:16am

posted by: owlmanatt on December 4, 2012 3:05pm

3/5ths: I would like to point out that they were not ‘abusing’ the sick days if their contract doesn’t actually treat them any differently from vacation days, which is the impression I’m getting.

It’s an extremely bad situation for the city and the taxpayers, and certainly ethically questionable on the part of the worker, but if their use of sick days is in compliance with the agreement, the blame rests with the City. Whoever negotiated that agreement did a poor job and did not serve the needs of the public.

This is actually a very perceptive comment.  The Custodian asserting that there was no sick time policy in the old contract is incorrect.  The policy was after three consecutive sick days the employee needed to furnish a doctor’s note.  In addition employees were routinely disciplined for taking sick time in a “monday-friday” pattern.

The contract was negotiated by none other than Mr. Will Clark, who was contracted as a private lawyer for the city in the past.  Originally employees could “bank up” sick time which usually leads to a decrease in usage, but because this allowed employees to trade their sick time for years of service toward their retirement or cash Mr. Clark and the powers that be felt it prudent to negotiate the union into all new hires getting seven sick days a year.  The trade-off for this? Interestingly enough the city traded the ability to move custodians from one building to another, something that Mr. Clark complains about in the article.

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