Harvard Facilities Maintenance Operations, an in-house contractor for building and landscape upkeep, said it plans to continue employing 20 janitors, who are all union members, when it takes over the janitorial contract for the Harvard School of Public Health from ABM Industries.
“FMO has offered all 20 of the affected workers Harvard staff positions, pending a standard personnel review,” University spokesperson Kevin Galvin wrote in an emailed statement.
Service Employees International Union, the union representing University janitorial workers, applauded the FMO’s choice and make good on their promise.
SEIU leaders had been concerned that the FMO would not keep union workers in their current jobs when the contract turned over. The FMO is not a unionized contractor, and thus is not required to follow the mandate that union workers keep their jobs for a certain amount of time after a contract transfer.
Wayne M. Langley, director of higher education for SEIU Local 615, said that though he was uncertain of the specifics of the FMO transition, he was pleased with this initial decision.
“We are happy they decided to keep those workers employed,” he said. “It was the right move.”
Langley said that a failure to rehire the union workers would ultimately hurt the University.
“If they hired new workers, they would have to train them for what the [fired workers] already knew,” Langley said. “It would be a lose-lose for everybody.”
Langley added that SEIU will remain wary until the FMO implements the contract.
“We just want to make sure the FMO does what it says it will,” Langley said.
SEIU is particularly interested in this case because it believes that the FMO will be taking over many of the other janitorial contracts within the University in the near future, and that this takeover may serve as an example for future contract changes.
“I think the FMO is going to be picking up a lot of contracts in the next couple of years,” Langley said. “This one is pretty important.”
The University did not confirm Langley’s suspicion that the FMO might take over more contracts in the future.
“I am not aware of any other schools that currently plan to make a similar shift,” Galvin wrote.
Galvin added that the University will negotiate the new contract through SEIU.
“Those positions will continue to be covered by the existing contract with SEIU Local 615, with which the University has a well-established relationship,” he wrote.
—Staff writer Mercer R. Cook can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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