Texas State-employed custodians will eventually be a thing of the past, as the outsourcing of these positions sweeps across campus.
The university started the process of outsourcing its custodial services last summer. Texas State entered a contract, effective June 1, with McLemore Building Maintenance, Inc. McLemore employees will fill the vacancies as university custodians retire or quit over time, said Bill Nance, vice president for Finance and Support Services.
Nance said custodial services are already outsourced at the LBJ Student Center, Student Health Center and Student Recreation Center. The idea behind outsourcing Texas State’s custodial services began as an effort to consolidate the individual contracts held by the three buildings.
But that idea spread and Nance said all custodial services positions at Texas State will eventually be outsourced. Nance said the outsourcing process may take anywhere from 10 to 15 years, and estimates by 2030 all custodial positions will be outsourced.
There are no plans to terminate Texas State-hired custodians to make room for the McLemore employees, Nance said. Kim Graves, director of Custodial Operations, said though there have never been any plans to terminate employees, any custodian who is worried about job security in a “scary economy” should talk to her.
Graves said as of Dec. 1, Custodial Operations will employ 88 custodians. She said there is a traditionally high turnover rate in the custodial industry. However, Graves said Custodial Services probably has more longevity than any department on campus, and its staff members take care of Texas State like it is their home.
“There’s a difference between just coming in, cleaning a building and leaving versus taking absolute ownership and people trusting you,” Graves said. “Our staff are caretakers. This university is entrusted to them.”
However, some Texas State-employed custodians do not feel secure about their positions with the university. In a Nov. 27 University Star Letter to the Editor, Custodian Scott Plough said many of his co-workers are afraid to say anything about their current employment situations. He said the department of Custodial Operations is “constantly” losing good employees because of a low pay and slim chances of being promoted.
Nance said the discussion to fully outsource custodial operations has been ongoing for many years.
“Everybody in higher education across the country knows it’s less expensive to outsource,” Nance said. “About half of the universities in Texas have their custodial services outsourced.”
Texas State’s 2013 budget apportions $164,349 to custodial contracts with McLemore. For the same year, the university has set aside approximately $3.18 million for Texas State custodial operations, including supplies, salaries and benefits.
Though the university will save money through its outsourcing of custodial services, custodians working at Texas State in the future under McLemore will receive fewer benefits. Nance said because McLemore is a private company, it does not have a benefits package as extensive as those offered by state entities. As state employees, Texas State custodians receive health insurance, a retirement program, 1.5 percent salary increases every two years and time off to enroll in classes.
Nance said workers’ compensation insurance is the biggest difference in the benefits packages offered by Texas State and McLemore. Nance estimates nearly half of the workers’ compensation claims on campus are made by custodians, costing the university approximately $350,000 per year.Curtis McLemore, CEO of the business, said his company’s wage rates and benefits “are within competitive industry standards.” Nance said McLemore has no benefits package equivalent to the teacher retirement offered by Texas State.
Nance said the university is in debt, and outsourcing custodial operations is a way to cut back on spending by approximately 25 percent. Nance said the university will gradually increase its financial savings as more outsourced custodians fill vacancies
Some of the first buildings to be outsourced were on the outer perimeter of campus, which Graves said is helpful because Texas State-employed custodians can now get to their work positions more quickly.
Jowers and Strahan Coliseum will be added to the list of outsourced buildings this December. The custodians currently cleaning those buildings will be moved to fill vacancies elsewhere on campus once their positions are outsourced.
Juan Guerra, associate vice president for Facilities, said outsourced custodians currently clean an estimated 160,000 square feet of campus. He said Texas State-employed custodians clean approximately 2.8 million square feet.