My most recent post reports on the efforts at Eastern Michigan University to forestall the privatization of the institution’s dining services.
In a post to the Miami University of Ohio chapter’s Facebook page, Cathy Wagner has provided not just a parallel example of this sort of privatization at that institution but a broader perspective on where these initiatives are originating:
|“This morning (thanks to a heads-up from Dusty Jones, head of AFSCME) I attended an open forum about a report Miami commissioned to assess cost-cutting opportunities in the housing & dining and physical facilities units.
“The Ohio Task Force on Efficiency and Accountability required the assessment to be done. MU chose a consultant called SSC to do the assessment. SSC has a huge contract to provide custodial, etc. services at Texas A&M. So their report, written by their Head of Regional Sales, was part assessment, part sales pitch for outsourcing.
“David Creamer, who led the forum, assured us that there were no plans to outsource labor or cut existing staff, and that all the recommendations for changes were going to be evaluated carefully in light of Miami’s particular needs. Because turnover is high here and it’s hard to find people to work here for the distances they need to drive and the wages they earn, it seems unlikely that switching to outsourced staff would work here for now. But in the future, in a different labor market, it might be cost-effective for the university to outsource labor, and Creamer made no promises.
“Which leaves open the prospect, if we do outsource some of these services, that when current staff have retired or moved on, they’d be replaced with low-wage contract workers who don’t have benefits, workers employed by the outsourcing company. This seems to be the model SSC is using at Texas A&M.
“We may not need to be concerned, because Miami already looked into outsourcing dining services with Chartwell’s and found that Chartwell’s could not provide a similar service for less. Hopefully they’ll make the same decision with SSC.
“The meeting was lively and I learned a lot about issues the custodial and dining staff are facing. Many are extremely concerned about their low wages (lowest in Ohio) and asked questions about pay, but Creamer deflected all those quesitons saying that he couldn’t say anything because contract negotiations were under way.
“SSC’s report will be presented to the Board of Trustees next week. Please spread the word about what’s going on. Nothing bad may happen, but it’s important to get some sunlight and air around these decisions so that we don’t have nasty surprises come fall.”