CT.org Managing Editor
Starting this summer, VCU housekeeping and maintenance operations will outsource and fire dozens of employees, after a decision approved by the Board of Visitors this past spring.
Part-time and full-time housekeeping and maintenance staff in the University Student Commons, Recreational Sports and the Department of Residential Life and Housing will be affected by the plan, starting July 1. About 70 housekeeping employees will be fired and about 50 maintenance staff members will be moved under different management.
“We’ve been looking at effective and efficient ways in what we do so that we can try to keep costs that students have to pay through tuition fees as low as possible,” said Reuban Rodriguez, associate vice provost and dean of student affairs.
With the shortfall in state funding and decrease in this year’s budget, the university looked to the Board to make up the difference.
The housekeeping contract alone is expected to help the university save more than $1.3 million this year. According to Rodriguez, most of the cost savings will come from laying off staff members.
“The university is trying to provide benefits to students,” Rodriguez said. “That’s the best outcome we can hope for.”
Before the Board approved the plan, housekeeping staff worked around the clock. Now that the university is making cutbacks, Rodriguez said there is no telling how many new employees will be hired.
Former housekeeper Maxine Eberhardt said she thinks that hiring new staff members through the contractors won’t benefit the students at all.
“The kids are going to suffer the most,” Eberhardt said. “The students are going to lose the quality of cleanliness in this building. It’s not going to be as clean as it was.”
Some housekeepers, like Eberhardt, have worked for VCU for more than 20 years. She said the housekeeping staff was scheduled for its first raise in six years before getting laid off.
“Now we’re not going to get the raise because we’re not employed anymore,” Eberdhardt said. “I think they could’ve waited. One month wouldn’t have mattered.”
Former housekeeper Ben Doll agreed that VCU did not give the staff enough notice before they fired them.
“They should’ve told me ahead of time so that I could’ve found a job,” Doll said.
However, to help all those affected by the plan, Rodriguez said the university has provided them with support.
“We met with the employees collectively,” Rodriguez said. “They had the opportunity to meet, one on one, with various representatives from potential hiring companies as well as VCU human resources. It’s nothing we take lightly.”
Employees affected by the decision were given the option to re-apply for the same job through the private contracting service.
Doll said he has already submitted two applications to the company, but his concern remains whether he will get paid less.
“I got bills,” Doll said. “I hope the pay would be the same.”
For Eberhardt, leaving the student commons after working there for 20 years means the end of working with a close-knit staff.
“We were like a little family,” she said.