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OCC Custodians Against Privatization Plans [AUDIO]

Custodians of Ocean County College are upset the institution is exploring the possibility of privatizing custodial services in an effort to save money.

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Flickr User Anthony Easton

During a meeting of the college’s board of trustee’s Monday, numerous members of the custodial staff as well as NJEA Field Representative for Higher Education, Chris Berzinski, spoke out against the possible move, expressing fears of losing their pensions, benefits, and possibly their jobs.

“They’re [the college] not going to save any significant amount of money at an institution that has a budget that has 70-80 million dollars; we’re talking potentially a few thousand.” said Berzinski.

He noted the move would only hurt the college and the community.  “The staff and students will come into daily contact with individuals who are not part of the OCC family. You will be paying not just for cleaning services, but for the shareholder dividends and executive salaries of a profit making company.”

OCC has posted a Request For Proposal (RFP), but no companies or contract specifics have been released.  However OCC representatives said all RFP’s would be required to rehire all full time custodial staff for a similar salary. But benefits packages would probably be different.

Several of the custodial staff are orried the benefits packages of a private company would result in more money being taken out of their paychecks, something most cannot afford.

“For people generally making under thirty thousand dollars a year, they will be facing perhaps five or six thousand dollars in lost contributions to pensions. They may lose their pensions, and their health benefits will not nearly match what they’re getting now,” said Berzinski, adding concerns of what the college would do if no RFP’s are able to afford rehiring the current staff their salaries.

In addition to benefits, several custodians expressed concern about losing tuition reduction benefits. Overnight janitor Thomas Zabrowski, who has gone through several instances of privatization efforts at other facilities, fears even if all they do get rehired, New Jersey’s status as a “right to work” state would mean near instant layoffs.

“Who’s to say that once they get in there we’ll be gone inside a couple months? Maybe not everybody all at once, and that’s where their profits start kicking in.”

College officials said they would address tuition issues, however declined to make any formal comment.

 

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