Scituate schools mulling privatization of custodial services

Northwest

SCITUATE, R.I. (WPRI) ─ The Scituate School Department is considering a move to privatize its custodial service, but members of the town’s custodial union are working to stop that from happening.

On Monday, a handful of union members picketed outside of the Clayville Elementary School ahead of a meeting where bids were made by three private companies.

Joshua Homerston, president of the union, said they’re worried about their job security. He said he and the other 19 school custodians do much more than sweep floors and empty trash.

“The word ‘custodian’ means ‘caretaker.’ We are the caretakers of the schools. Without us the school would fall into shambles,” he said.

School Committee President Erika McCormick told Eyewitness News they’re still in the “fact-finding” stage of the process and are still unsure whether it will be worth it.

“We will not know if privatizing the custodial services will be beneficial for the students, schools, custodians or the community until we look at the bids, check references and meet with prospective companies,” McCormick said in a statement. “I expect this process to be completed by the next school committee meeting on March 3.”

Scituate Superintendent Carol Blanchette said she can’t speculate on what the school committee will decide.

“The school committee has been transparent with our employees and the public throughout this process,” Blanchette said in a statement. “Our job is to gather information, vet it and present it to the school committee for their subsequent action.”

In addition to outlining how much their annual services would cost over the course of three years, bidders were required to outline a plan to retain current custodial workers.

Homerston said they don’t want to work for a private company, citing concerns about pay cuts and working conditions.

“We would probably take at least $5 or more pay cuts and what we make now is not enough to live on, let alone making $11 an hour doing the job but working harder,” Homerston explained.

The union said their current services cost the district about $743,000 annually, but a budget breakdown provided by Blanchette said the department spent around $976,000 on custodial staff pay and benefits in the 2018-19 school year.

Initial annual bids unveiled Monday by the three private companies ranged from $524,000 to $725,000. The school department is hoping privatization will help close a budget deficit.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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