During a meeting with Tufts Labor Coalition (TLC) members on March 10, Tufts and DTZ administration revealed a plan to increase cleaning efficiency at Tufts‘ three campuses, which would result in cutting a number of part-time janitorial jobs. Concerned students and workers protested the cuts outside Facilities Services at 520 Boston Ave. throughout the hour-and-a-half meeting.
According to Vice President for Operations Linda Snyder, Tufts has requested that DTZ increase the efficiency of campus cleaning. DTZ is responsible for determining the number of workers, shifts and shift structures, she said.
“DTZ is in the early stages of a planning process to restructure cleaning services by improving efficiency, reducing effort where less cleaning is needed and increasing services where more is needed,” Snyder said in a statement to the Daily. “DTZ’s program changes will reduce the number of part-time positions by about 35, [and] approximately 56 positions will change shift schedules.”
Although DTZ decides how many workers or shifts are provided at a university, Tufts has significant influence over DTZ’s actions, according Roxana Rivera, a district director for Service Employees International Union.
“[Tufts] holds a lot of power because they are determining what type of cleaning they want and what they are going to pay for,” Rivera said. “So the contractors are reacting to the requests of the university; they have to figure out how to provide workers with less funding.”
Snyder said that due to the rising costs of education, Tufts needed to prioritize the allocations of its resources in the best way possible, and that included cuts in the janitorial budget.
“The cost of the custodial service contract is a significant expense to the university,” Snyder said in the statement. “We need to be sure that we receive good value and that we pay an appropriate market rate for the services, conserving resources to support our core mission.”
Omar Merino, DTZ employee and member of Tufts’ janitorial staff for over 20 years, said that, compared to administrative costs, the janitorial budget was disproportionately affected by budget cuts.
“Tuition doesn’t get less expensive,” Merino said. “When they want to save money, they cut it from the bottom, not the top. I’ve been working here for more than 20 years, it’s always the same story.”
Rivera added that the cuts would have a severe effect on the lives of those laid off, as well as on their families.
“These are workers that have committed years to providing service at Tufts,” Rivera said. “Folks are going to be laid off and so folks are going to lose their livelihood … and they are no longer going to be able to provide for their families and they are going to lose their healthcare.”
Snyder emphasized that DTZ would do its best to provide those laid off from their jobs at Tufts with jobs at other Boston area locations in an effort to minimize this negative impact. However, Nicole Joseph, a first-year TLC member who attended the meeting, said that although DTZ offered to find replacement jobs for these workers, it could not guarantee future employment.
Junior Molly Schulman, another TLC member at the meeting, said that DTZ also suggested they would buy new cleaning equipment to increase efficiency and decrease janitors’ physical labor. Rivera said she was skeptical that new equipment would actually make much of a difference in the work.
“When clients want to make cuts they sometimes mask it by saying that there is going to be special equipment that will allow the workers to work faster,” Rivera said. “This is a labor intensive industry, and we don’t believe that to be true.”
Rivera said she was grateful for student support and looked forward to its continuation.
“For years the students have expressed support of the workers,” Rivera said. “Individual students have relationships with workers who have been there for years. I expect continued support … and we look forward to that … because we think that it is important for the students in the community to say that they are in support of these workers and [that] they want to make sure that they have quality jobs.”