Hillsboro School District contracts out custodial jobs

Fifty-six Hillsboro School District custodians and groundskeepers were terminated Feb. 24 as part of a district plan to save money by contracting out. The work will now be done by Somers Building Maintenance (SBM) a Sacramento-based firm which also cleans Intel facilities.

The fired workers were members of Hillsboro Classified United Local 4671 of American Federation of Teachers-Oregon. For eight months, the union resisted the plan to contract out. The district labor agreement expired last July, and in October, members voted down a management contract proposal because it included the plan to outsource.

They relented Jan. 5, however, approving a new three-year contract in a 251-67 vote. Under the new contract, employees will receive a 2.6 percent annual wage increase for the first two years of the contract. [The third year’s wage increase will be bargained in spring 2007.] The agreement also sets up a “two-tier” system of health insurance, in which employees hired after July 2007 will pay a higher proportion of premiums. And the contract permitted the district to outsource custodial and maintenance work.

One head custodian per school will remain employed by the district.

The district says the plan will save $600,000 the first year, an amount that would rise to $1.2 million a year after that, primarily due to the lower retirement and health benefit contributions of the private contractor’s employees.

Local 4671 President Billie Pinder, a special ed assistant, said the union ultimately agreed to the outsourcing only because it appeared the district was prepared to declare impasse and impose its final offer without the workers’ consent. Pinder said the union was able to get some assurances for the laid-off workers, including a promise they’d be paid the same hourly wage if they went to work for SBM. Those who didn’t agree to work for the contractor would get severance pay equal to one week’s wages for each year of work, and would continue to get employer-paid health insurance coverage for three months.

SBM, too, is a union employer, signatory to a master agreement negotiated by Portland-based Service Employees International Union Local 49. That agreement provides employee-only health coverage, and a 5-cent-an-hour pension contribution. While SEIU seeks to represent all janitors, Local 49 political director Felisa Hagins said the union opposes, on principle, contracting out the work of public employees.

As many as 20 custodians chose to work for the contractor; the others will be eligible for unemployment benefits. 

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