Maintainence Staff Worried by Letters

Luke Threatens to Fire House Workers

Crew chiefs and custodial workers in several undergraduate Houses received letters this week from Facilities Maintenance saying their work is substandard and warning of possible firing.

"This is a written notice of unsatisfactory performance...If you fail to improve in two weeks, you will receive a written warning. If your performance still does not improve, you will receive a three day suspension. If your performance is still not up to standard, you will then be terminated," says the letter, which is signed by Jason W. Luke '94, associate manager of facilities maintenance operations.

Workers said that they were baffled by the letter, which was sent to employees in at least Leverett, Quincy and Winthrop Houses, and that their work would suffer under the stress.

"You're working under a lot of stress," said one crew chief, who asked not to be identified. "How can you do your jobs if you're under a lot of stress?"

Luke did not return phone calls yesterday asking about the letter, but Thomas Vaughtin, vice president for Facilities and Environmental Services said letters had been sent to a number of houses and other areas of the University.


"What we're finding here is that there have been a number of different complaints from different areas in the University," Vaughtin said. "What we've been responding to is various requests to clean up the area."

Vaughtin would not say how many notices had been issued or what specific complaints were made.

"Our customer recently suggested, and our own internal inspection confirms, that our unsatisfactory," the letters reads.

Vaughtin would not name the "customer" mentioned in the letter who was dissatisfied.

"Unless we dramatically improve our performance, we will lose the building to an outside contractor," the letter warns. "I consider your performance of your cleaning duties unsatisfactory."

The crew chief said he feels Luke did not send the letter independently.

Mather, Dunster and Currier Houses are now cleaned by outside contractors, as is Claverly Hall. Vaughtin said the purpose of the warnings is to keep the houses under the supervision of the current custodial staff.

"This is frankly all about trying to preserve their positions here because these jobs [in other houses] have been lost to contract [in the past]," Vaughtin said.

But employees worry that administrators may be too eager to seek outside contracts, which could save costs in terms of employee benefits and union salaries.

The Faculty of Arts and Sciences is currently operating with a deficit of approximately $500,000, Dean of the Faculty Jeremy R. Knowles told the Faculty Council in September.

Last year, budget cutting efforts led the Harvard Corporation, the more powerful of the University's two governing boards, to approve a one percent reduction in contribution to faculty pension plan and a reorganization of the health care plans.

Vaughtin said yesterday that facilities maintenance must find a way to balance the need to cut costs with providing the best possible cleaning job.

"[Cost cutting is] obviously a factor," he said. "Doing a good job for a low cost is important.

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