MU has decided not to outsource custodial jobs, at least through the 2020-21 academic year, the university announced in a press release Thursday.
The university in May began accepting bids from companies to outsource those jobs, which would have resulted in firing over 250 MU employees.
The decision comes after over a month of controversy, including demonstrations on campus; a letter from MU faculty, staff and students supporting custodial staff; and resistance from Laborers Local 955, a chapter of LiUNA, the union representing custodial staff.
”We are very grateful to the faculty members and community members that rallied alongside the workers fighting against privatization,” said Andrew Hutchinson, the mid-Missouri organizer for Jobs with Justice and a field representative for Laborers Local 955. “We know there’s a long road ahead in terms of bargaining over cuts, but this is a clear indication of when communities and workers stand together to fight, they win.”
MU officials said the attempt to outsource custodial work was a result of the economic difficulties the university suffered due to the coronavirus pandemic and loss of funding from the state.
Since the onset of the pandemic, MU lost about $35 million in state revenue, according to the press release. MU also had to provide millions of dollars in refunds to students for room and board and other fees when the pandemic forced students to leave campus in March.
More than 170 MU employees have been laid off, nearly 3,600 have been placed on furloughs lasting between one week and three months pay, and more than 2,300 have experienced a reduction in their salaries, the press release said.
“The University of Missouri has experienced tremendous budgetary shortfalls in the economic fallout of COVID-19, and we’ve had to take a hard look at every corner of our finances,” UM System President and Interim MU Chancellor Mun Choi said in the release. “Our primary goal is to protect the teaching, research and service missions of the University. We look forward to engaging our employees and the LiUNA representatives to find a way to support our custodians.”
During the bidding process, MU learned that it could save as much as $3 million if it decided to outsource to a proven firm, the press release asserted.
However, resistance from those who wanted to protect the employees that would have lost their jobs prompted MU to postpone a decision at this time.
MU officials said they will work with union representatives to identify other cost-saving measures.
If MU is unable to achieve similar savings, officials could move to outsource the service, but any final decision would not be made before the 2021-22 academic year, according to the release.
“We want to thank our dedicated staff and appreciate the work they have done during these challenging times,” said Gary Ward, MU’s vice chancellor for operations. “We look forward to working with them over the next academic year for ways to reduce costs and provide savings that will protect the mission of the university.”