Custodial changes made as budget is cut

Facilities Management cut about $18 million and 63 custodians.

As a result of recent budget cuts, custodial service changes on the University of Minnesota campus took effect Monday âÄî saving Facilities Management about $3.2 million per year. The changes include less frequent trash pick-up in buildings and 63 fewer custodians on staff. âÄúQuadsâÄù âÄî the groups of four bins for trash and recyclables âÄî will continue to be picked up daily, but office trash pick-up will switch to once a week and research labs to three times a week, Brad Hoff , chief administrative officer for Facilities Management, said. About $18 million was cut from the departmentâÄôs overall budget of $195 million, making changes like these necessary, Hoff said. Along with the $3.2 million in custodial changes, there were also $3.2 million in maintenance changes, $900,000 in administrative reductions, $700,000 in inventory and supplies changes, $1.5 million reduction in repair and replacement and $600,000 in operational savings for a total of $10.1 million. Hoff said the other $8 million came from reduced spending on projects by colleges and departments. For instance, if a professor wanted one office turned into two, Facilities Management does the work. But with a tighter budget, Hoff said the amount people spend decreased. Most of the 63 positions eliminated were from the hiring freeze, the retirement incentive offer and the voluntary severance package, but Hoff said 15 custodians were left without permanent positions. They are being kept on staff with stimulus money, and Hoff said the department hopes they will all eventually be moved into permanent positions because of the custodial staff’s high turnover rate. Marshall Skule , district director of the Health Sciences District , said this is the first time in about 20 years that the entire campus has been rebid, meaning the areas that custodians clean changed. The custodians bid on which work area they want based on seniority. Skule said about one-third to half now have a different area to clean. He said prior to the bidding, custodians were apprehensive because they didnâÄôt know what their area would be. Now that the changes have taken effect, Skule said heâÄôs heard reactions on both sides. âÄúSome didnâÄôt get what they want,âÄù Skule said. âÄúQuite a few others got to move to different areas; some really enjoyed the change.âÄù As part of the changes, each of the 459 custodiansâÄô cleaning area is larger, but they also have fewer tasks to complete in their area, Hoff said. âÄúWe hope that they will have an equal amount of work,âÄù he said. Sue Mauren , secretary treasurer of Teamsters Local 320 , the union that represents custodians, said their biggest worry was their decreased ability to provide the same level of service because they have larger areas to clean within the same amount of time. âÄúItâÄôs been very stressful,âÄù she said. âÄúThatâÄôs been difficult for a lot of people because theyâÄôre used to doing a good job and they feel they canâÄôt do as good a job as they have in the past.âÄù Some of the shifts also changed with the rebidding of campus. Mauren said most custodians work the second shift, which is 3:30 p.m. to midnight, but with the rebidding, about 30 custodians were forced onto the third shift, which is 10:30 p.m. to 7 a.m. Hoff said the biggest change is desk-side trash, which will be picked up once a week rather than daily. The University was the last school in the Big Ten to provide daily pick-up. He said the day trash is picked up varies by building and floor, and employees are being asked to empty food scraps in the communal quads to prevent rodents. âÄúWeâÄôre asking each person to do a little bit,âÄù he said. Before the changes were enacted campus-wide, a pilot program starting in February revealed that people recycled more often without daily pick-up because they were being more cognizant of what they were throwing away, Skule said. âÄúWhen people take more responsibility of their desk-side waste and recycling, they tend to start paying more attention to recycling,âÄù he said. A survey during the pilot program revealed that 90 percent of customers were satisfied with the changes, Hoff said. The biggest concern was pick-up in research labs, but Skule said hazardous waste materials will continue to be picked up daily. âÄúWe were pleasantly surprised, as massive of an undertaking this was, how relatively smoothly it went,âÄù he said. Another change that Skule said he hopes will start in the fall is changing the quads to trios by combining the two bins for office paper and newspaper into one. âÄúEverybody at the University realizes the budget battle that weâÄôve been fighting,âÄù he said. âÄúWe just tried to make lemonade out of lemons by increasing our recycling.âÄù