The Wichitan

Administrators consider outsourcing maintenance jobs

Ethan Metcalf

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A crowd of about 80 maintenance staff members gathered for a meeting with vice presidents of SSC Support Services and university administrators to discuss the possibility of outsourcing maintenance jobs to the company. Photo by Ethan Metcalf.

A crowd of about 80 maintenance staff members gathered for a meeting with vice presidents of SSC Support Services and university administrators to discuss the possibility of outsourcing maintenance jobs to the company. Photo by Ethan Metcalf.

To combat the university’s ongoing budget woes, administrators revealed this week that they are in negotiations with SSC Service Solutions to outsource the school’s facility services, including custodial, groundskeeping and central plant crews. If approved, the move would affect 94 staff members employed by the university.

Vice presidents of SSC, along with several university administrators, held a meeting Monday with more than 80 staff members to discuss the possibility of outsourcing the jobs.

“MSU has had some budget issues over the last few years, and we’ve been able to weather that with one-time donations, but it’s really eaten into our core mission of academics, so we need to address other options,” said Kyle Owen, associate vice president of facilities services, at the beginning of the meeting.

Marilyn Fowlé, vice president of business affairs and finance, said the university already outsources its dining and bookstore services, mentioning that many universities are looking for more services they can outsource.

“We’re in the business to educate, we’re not in the business to run a bookstore or run a food service,” Fowlé said. “So what other kinds of things are there that companies…could do better and maybe less expensive, and facilities is one of them.”

Fowlé said the move could save the university money because the contracted company would start paying into the retirement of any facilities employees hired after the contract change.

Fowlé said negotiations with SSC began when administrators chose Chartwells as the university’s new food service company, a member of Compass Group North America which also owns SSC.

“In our RFP (Request for Proposal) we also said, ‘Tell us about other things you can do besides food service,’ and they brought up the facilities piece…the financial package they’re going to give us is pretty healthy,” Fowlé said. “There might be some bonus money for us because we’re bringing in another part of their company.”

Few definite answers were given at the meeting as John Lane, regional vice president for SSC, repeated different iterations of the phrase, “this is far from final.”

“We’re just not there yet,” Lane said. “That’s why we’re here today, so we can be transparent with you.”

But with the word “outsourcing” comes fears of layoffs, which members in the audience expressed, but Owen and Fowlé both said everyone is promised a job.

“They make a commitment to us and it’s in the contract. Now, if somebody doesn’t perform, that’s a whole different story, but it will be in the contract that they will take everybody and take them at at least their current pay,” Fowlé said. “That’s why they say we can’t really tell you until we do the contract because, from our perspective, how rich of a transition package do we want them to give our employees?”

Fowlé said outgoing University President Jesse Rogers, known for his fundraising ability, wants to leave a balanced budget for Suzanne Shipley, who will take over as president this August.

“He has a really good fundraising ability because he’s been here for 48 years, so he knows all the big donors,” Fowlé said. “He does not want to burden her, Dr. Shipley, with having to try to fundraise to make sure the budget is balanced in her first year. That’s just not right.”

RELATED: Fine arts custodian one of 94 staff members whose jobs could be outsourced

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5 Responses to “Administrators consider outsourcing maintenance jobs”

  1. George Emmert on April 29th, 2015 7:02 am

    All about more for the elite and less for the working class.

  2. Lori Ford on May 3rd, 2015 3:26 pm

    I don’t know how not burdening the incoming President out ways the hard work and built up retirement of so many of MSU’s employees. A university should not just be held to an academic standard, but also an ethical standard. While finances in business are of great importance, to not enter into business with a moral compass is just as irresponsible as the mismanagement of funds. I hope all involved in this decision making process take into account not just how this may benefit the university, but how this decision will impact many MSU employee’s and their families.

  3. Mark Daniels on May 3rd, 2015 4:40 pm

    The University could by themselves a year of time if they are truly looking to save a million dollars and save a lot of people their jobs by simply selling all the houses on Hampstead and at 3311 Taft. Surely selling those houses could generate a million dollars and cut operating expenses used to maintain those properties. However since Dr. Fowle lives in the “Guesthouse”, that’s probably a bad idea because she might have to use some of her own $175,000+ a year salary for living expenses then. There are plenty of ways to trim the budget without effecting the lowest paid people on Campus. Trim the fat where the fat is, not where people are only making $19,000 a year.

  4. Mark Daniels on May 4th, 2015 9:27 pm

    I wonder why there’s only one option on the table? Why not do an early buy out of those that are close to retirement like Dr. Stewart did a couple of years ago? But since Dr. Fowle didn’t have thei idea, it’s probably not a good idea. It seems Dr. Fowle has a personal agenda of leaving some kind of long lasting mark on the University after she leaves in a couple of years.

  5. Mark Daniels on May 17th, 2015 10:32 am

    To me, this looks like a person who is making way to much money and getting way to many perks, and the University is not getting what it is paying for. Dr. Fowle has been on the job now for over 2 years, and been unable to balance the budget yet, and this is the ONLY way she can find to to it? In the real world of employment, people like her would be looking for another place to work. That’s a quick way the University could save at the very least, $176,500 a year.

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Administrators consider outsourcing maintenance jobs