Janitors working for the city of Waco, Texas will keep their jobs despite the city outsourcing to a private organization.
The City Council approved a compromise plan in a 6-0 vote that will phase out city workers in favor of private contractors, but current city janitors will retain their positions at 16 buildings.
In late February, UBM Enterprise will start providing janitorial services at 14 buildings, covering about 400,000 square feet.
Eventually, the city plans to transition all janitorial services to the private firm. The move will save the city about $420,000 on its yearly $1 million cleaning bill.
In the coming year, the city will save a modest $31,000 if current city janitors maintain their positions and do not work for UBM.
Several of the city janitors first objected to the outsourcing, arguing that they would lose their benefits, particularly their retirement benefits. Wiley Stem III, Deputy City Manager, reassured that UBM would work with the city to allow city janitors to choose whether they would stay with the city or join the firm’s team.
Stem said, “They can continue in their jobs or go to work for the contract or do whatever else they want. They can take another job with the city if they want to. … I think it’s a good solution to the debate that’s been had about this.”
UBM said it will offer sick and vacation pay as well as health insurance. Hourly pay will be between $10 and $13, which is close to the compensation offered by the city.
Council members who were concerned that outsourcing would hurt city workers were satisfied with the compromise.
Waco isn’t the only city in the United States looking to outsource its janitorial work, but employees in other counties haven’t been as lucky as those in the Texas town.
In Flagler, Florida, the city eliminated 15 janitorial jobs as it transitions to a private firm’s services. Laid-off employees will be given two months’ severance and four months’ health insurance benefits. Those who have been working for the county for more than three years will get more severance.
The county is not requiring the firm to hire existing janitors, but only asked that they be granted interviews.
One janitor will be retiring, and another will be working for the new firm.
Flagler will be using the services of American Janitorial, which offered a $485,000-a-year contract. The firm will be responsible for cleaning 50 facilities in the county.
The transition to a contract deal is projected to save the county $115,000 per year. The county will also save money on vehicles, uniforms, cell phones, and other related expenses.
Those against the move argue that laid-off employees who cannot find jobs may go on Welfare or another assistance program, which also costs money.
The county had considered privatizing janitorial jobs nearly three years ago, but opposition ultimately killed the proposal. At the time, Barbara Revels was serving as Commissioner and argued that the savings of $173,000 per year was not worth having county employees lose their livelihoods and benefits.