In the middle of ongoing budget
difficulties, raising money and cutting costs are on the high end
of the University’s priorities — even if it comes at
the expense of the 367-member custodial staff. This year’s
budget set provisions that altered that altered custodians’
hours of work. The re-allocation of hours from two different shifts
to strictly 4 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. has saved the University $350,000,
according to Nathan Norman, Plant Building Services director. Many
members of the custodial staff have paid the price for these cuts,
however, as they have been forced to do the same job for less
compensation.

Angela Cesere

Prior to the budget cuts, custodians could work either a 4
p.m.-to-12:30 a.m. shift or an 11 p.m.-to-6:30 a.m. shift. These
two slots gave ample time to complete all the tasks and also
provided scheduling options for the custodians. Although the new 4
a.m.-to-12:30 p.m. shift adds up to more than eight hours of work,
custodians say they are expected to finish cleaning staff offices
and regular classrooms by 8 a.m.

The change has had a number of negative consequences for the
custodial staff. First and foremost, they lose out on overtime and
night-shift pay bonuses that were part of their 2001 agreement with
the University. The University may have saved money by doing so,
but only at the expense of workers whose compensation is already
quite modest.

Working in and around a bustling university, a less flexible
schedule also makes it more difficult to get work done. Though some
claim that there is still ample time to clean, others on the
custodial staff maintain the single shift means the work must be
done during the day. They find themselves cleaning bathrooms in
broad daylight when students and staff need the facilities.

Not only are the hours insufficient, but they also they occur at
an impractical time. As a result of these new hours, custodians
have less choice in what hours they work. Many have spouses and
families, and require enough flexibly to juggle the demands of work
and home.

The difficulties involved in doing so inevitably lead to sleep
deprivation and fatigue, which only work to reduce the productivity
of the staff. Though the University offers computer courses during
the day for the custodians, they can ill-afford to utilize the
services due to their early morning shift.

Clearly the additional $350,000 is much needed. Yet so are the
custodians, who provide a valuable and basic resource without which
the University could not function. They deserve adequate
compensation, and, at the very least, the flexibility necessary to
adequately balance their professional and personal lives. Because
of the cuts, some veteran custodians have already applied to other
areas within the University in hopes of obtaining better working
conditions. This is as clear an indication as any that all is not
right with the current custodial arrangement.

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