Faculty senate pushes for employee equity

Faculty senate pushes for employee equity

Last week, the Old Gold & Black wrote an article regarding janitorial staff positions being outsourced to the Budd Group starting this July.

Since the piece was published, new information has surfaced. Professors David Coates and Alan Louden met with the administration on March 30 to raise some concerns and gather more information on the changes coming into effect. Chief Human Resources Officer Carmen Canales was also present.

“The biggest thing is that the university seems to be accepting responsibility by putting pressure on contractors [to treat their employees fairly],” Coates said. Nonetheless, custodial staff are still uncertain of their job security.

This meeting is one result of a year-long effort on behalf of faculty, staff and students to create a sense of fairness among our campus community. The conversation began among the group, Wake Forward, which usually meets once a month to focus on campus and community issues in Winston-Salem.

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The question of janitorial staff pay is a concern that focuses on the intersection of these issues and has since been brought to light by the Faculty Senate.

“We’ve kind of taken these issues that we began with Wake Forward and brought them into institutionally recognized and established bodies to negotiate with the administration,”  said Dr. Simone Caron, a professor of history and faculty senator.

During the meeting it was announced that starting Aug. 1, 2017, Aramark and Graylyn full-time and part-time employees will start to earn a living wage (at a minimum) of $10.48 an hour as opposed to the minimum wage in North Carolina of $7.50 an hour.

While the Faculty Senate asked that all employees of the university earn a wage of $11 an hour, $10.48 an hour is a positive step, according to Caron.

Aramark and Graylyn do not currently anticipate to decrease the number of employees due to the increase in wages. However, there is no confirmation that the Aramark and Graylyn employees who were already earning a higher salary than the living wage will keep their salary or have it reduced to the living wage.

“Some people have been here a really long time and are making $13.50 an hour, we would like to clarify if they’re going to keep that,” Caron said. “They were afraid that they would go back to minimum wage, so at least we know that is not going to happen.”

While the Faculty Senate has brought these issues to the attention of the administration, after last week’s meeting it appears that the administration is trying to do the right things for its employees.

“From what we’ve been negotiating with them, there seems to be a lot of miscommunication,” Caron said. “We have people who are petrified of being fired, people telling us that they didn’t hear about any of this, and we have administrators saying that they have had numerous meetings and invited these workers to come.”

This meeting on Thursday was an attempt to clear up any miscommunication and receive confirmation that custodial staff employed by the university would not lose their jobs and that the Budd Group would pay it’s workers a living wage.

While it is not yet confirmed, the implication is that all Budd Group employees who work at Wake Forest will earn a living wage.

Additionally, the hope is that each Wake Forest custodial employee will have a smooth transition once the Budd Group takes over the day porter jobs in July. They have been invited to a job fair and are encouraged to apply for the day porter positions contracted through the Budd Group, but there is no guarantee that they will receive these positions.

Not only did the meeting bring up what is happening, but why. The argument for contracting Budd Group workers is that there is a lot of turnover with custodial staff positions and Wake Forest does not have the resources nor time to train new people, while the Budd Group does. Caron commented on this.

“We don’t have a problem with that as long as Budd Group employees are treated fairly. They also need to make a living wage — we don’t want to be in a position where we’re going to protect the people that we have now but we’re still going to be a tiered system.”

Caron emphasized the necessity of protecting current direct employees of the school but also doing the same for any new staff that is contracted by the Budd Group. Coates echoed this, but also questioned why nothing has been done before.

To ensure future accountability, the faculty senate is asking for two things. The first is that the chief human resources officer come before the faculty senate during the annual report that is currently delivered by the provost and chief financial officer. The second is for the university to create an office of corporate social responsibility.

“It’s a good thing that the task force is pressing the issue, but shocking that it should be necessary in the first place,” Coates said. “This is just the beginning.”

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    QuietOwlApr 10, 2017 at 11:09 pm

    I am so proud that at least a few faculty/staff members are speaking out for the custodial staff at Wake Forest! They do a job that many of us, including myself, would loathe to do. Recently, one of them had to clean feces out of a urinal! They should be paid fairly & treated even better! Thank you to Professors David Coates, Alan Louden, & Simone Caron, as well as OGB, for staying on top of this issue!