We are writing to update the community on the reorganization that DTZ—the company that provides our custodial services—is undertaking and to respond to some concerns that have been raised by community members. The University and DTZ agreed to delay this reorganization, initially proposed for late 2014, until this summer. This message provides specific updates on the bidding process since July 22.
The current phase of the DTZ reorganization is consistent with plans and discussions of the last year and follows the procedural requirements of the contract between DTZ and the Local 32BJ of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) as much as possible. DTZ has explained that the one procedural difference is that they have defined each campus as an individual bargaining unit for position bidding and assignment rather than considering all three campuses as one unit. This avoids the likely outcome of Medford workers being reassigned to Grafton, creating a hardship for those workers.
The Bidding Process
The formal bidding process now underway is an important phase in the reorganization. It will continue through August. In this phase, as outlined in the SEIU/DTZ contract, custodians are given the opportunity to “bid” on which shifts and days off (days of the week and hours) they want in order of first, second and third preferences. The process follows the requirements of the SEIU/ DTZ contract. The position posting and bidding is a formal labor relations-based structure negotiated by SEIU in the contract. It is seen by organized labor as a way to assure fairness in filling positions. Most recently, to assist the DTZ employees in the process of bidding for new positions, there have been six work sessions, two of which were attended by the SEIU, and many smaller consultations with supervisors.
The posting was public for one week as required by the SEIU/DTZ contract. The original July 20 deadline for workers to express their preference for shifts was extended for two additional days through July 22. DTZ has reviewed the preferences and assigned workers according to the seniority and shift priority provisions of the SEIU/DTZ contract. DTZ has told the University that they are making every attempt to assign employees to the same shift and days as currently assigned if that is their preference. The first phase of the bidding process is complete and all DTZ employees will be given their new assignments this week. Assignment letters are in English and Spanish and supervisors are charged with making sure all employees fully understand the new assignments. DTZ currently expects another round of postings and bidding if any positions remain unfilled. It is DTZ’s goal to assure that all assignments are filled by the week of August 24, 2015.
We have been asked how those employees who are away for the summer voluntarily will be accommodated in the bidding process. DTZ has told us that they are holding shifts for these individuals.
There is no contractual requirement for DTZ to include specific buildings in the bidding. As a practical matter, DTZ must make building assignments to meet the needs of the University building occupants and to assure that all buildings are properly supported.
Members of the Tufts community will see changes in DTZ staffing in the next few days and weeks. As employee assignments are completed and employees move to new buildings and shifts, DTZ supervisors will conduct training sessions to introduce employees whose building assignments have changed to the particular requirements of the new building and the University community members who live and work there. Since there will now be many more custodians on the first shift, we hope that you will take the opportunity to welcome the custodial staff in your building.
We have confirmed with DTZ that there is no reduction in hours of full-time positions and there is no reduction in wage rates, which are set by the SEIU/DTZ contract.
Efforts to Reduce Layoffs
The number of layoffs has been a concern to all parties involved in the process. Initially 35 positions were projected by DTZ to be affected by layoffs. Late last spring that number was reduced to about 20 when the SEIU clarified that seniority would be the primary factor in determining layoffs. The number of layoffs has been reduced by transfers to other DTZ locations, attrition and the need for cleaning services in the new CLIC building at 574 Boston Avenue. Our understanding is that the projected layoff number is now approximately 10.
DTZ has said that it would make every effort to place affected employees in its 2500-member Boston area workforce. We hope that DTZ is able to reduce that projected number further over the coming weeks with anticipated opportunities at other DTZ/SEIU locations.
As we have said, the reorganization serves important purposes. We know from benchmarking studies that our custodial services are about 20% less efficient than higher education peers. The reorganization is focused on meeting standards similar to those at peer universities and improving cleaning services while also operating at a more efficient level. This fall custodial services will be increased in areas where they are needed the most, such as in dorms, athletics facilities, and the libraries on weekends and in active University buildings during the day. Services will be reduced in offices, which don’t require daily cleaning. Because Tufts has so much office space, the latter is a very large reduction, allowing DTZ to increase services where necessary and still achieve the efficiencies that are needed. This will enable us to achieve service standards more comparable to those at peer universities and also save approximately $900,000 a year.
We appreciate the cooperation that the community, including the DTZ employees, has shown during this process.