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Outsourcing Opponents Picket Outside UWS

Updated: 06/09/2014 5:47 PM
Created: 06/09/2014 5:07 PM WDIO.com
By: Maarja Anderson

A couple dozen picketers marched around UW-Superior Monday, asking the administration to rethink possibly outsourcing their custodial and grounds crew positions to private companies.

The university needs to make up $4.5 million in either cuts or revenue over the next five years. Last month, the custodial staff and grounds crew received at-risk letters in response to the fiscal challenges.

Dave Johnstone has spent half his life at UWS. He is one of 28 people who work as a custodian or on grounds crew.

"I'm working on the grounds crew right now. I've been out here for six years and I was a custodian for 20, so I've got 26 years of service," Johnstone said.

Last month when he received the letter telling him his job is at-risk, he was shocked. 

"26 years gone," he said.

Johnstone, along with 30 other UWS employees, alumni, and union leaders, rallied support around campus Monday.

Johnstone said most people don't understand everything they do on campus. He added they all share a deep pride in their job.

"We do a lot...pretty much anything they ask us to do we're there to do it," explained Johnstone.

Marty Beil with the Wisconsin State Employee's Union said that same pride will be hard to find in a private company.

"They are people of many talents and the university, in a very callous way, is saying we don't need you anymore, we're just going to put this out to the lowest bidder," said Beil.

The university, however, is still in the early stages of the process. Lynne Williams with UWS said they are six to eight weeks out from making any decision.

"It's really too early to tell. No decisions have been made and until we go through the bidding process we don't know financially where this falls," she explained.

Williams said the custodial staff is one area of many they are evaluating. Last month, UWS suspended several grad programs, outsourced the book store, and consolidated the marketing department.

Within the next few weeks, Williams said they will submit a package for bids from organizations. Those groups will have four weeks to make their bids and then the university will compare those potential costs to what they already have in-house.

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