In June, the Texas A&M University System announced it would outsource 1,647 jobs from its building maintenance, landscaping and dining services to North Carolina-based Compass Group USA. The university believes it will gain $260 million in revenue to “recruit, pay, and retain faculty and researchers.” The move has left the support staff feeling jilted, despite the fact that most will keep their jobs.
“Texas A&M has one of the finest business schools in the country, and yet we can’t figure out how to in-house save money out of our department,” said Walter Draper, an assistant custodial supervisor and one of the outsourcing plan’s many detractors.
The privatization of positions brings an unknown future. Many are worried about their retirements as the years they work for Compass Group will not count towards their current plans. At universities around the country, the benefits and guarantees that come from being employed by a public university are what make the job. This blatant, anti-worker move also means these workers will need to resign and reapply:
They have been told that their jobs, after they undergo a reapplication process and pending a background check, are guaranteed for at least two years with comparable benefits and the same salary. That includes a 4 percent raise to offset the difference between the benefits that A&M and Compass Group provide.
One worker, who asked to not be named by The Texas Tribune out of fear for repercussions, put it more simply:
“What we’re being told is you can take it or leave it,”
Local businesses are also worried about what the University’s change in direction will mean for them. Many local vendors have yet to hear from Compass Group, leaving the future of their biggest contracts up in the air.
In the past, A&M has relied on nearby companies like Slovacek Sausage, Scarmardo Produce, Ruffino Meats and a Mrs. Baird’s Bread distributor to supply its kitchens. But none of those companies have been told whether that relationship will continue after the transfer.
“We really don’t know,” said Greg Scarmardo, a co-owner of Scarmardo Produce, who said that A&M is one of his five biggest clients.
Sarah Hada, a spokeswoman for Compass Group, said all current food providers would be reviewed as part of the transition. “There is a process where potential vendors can apply to become an approved vendor,” Ms. Hada said. “But strict standards must be met.”
Privatization has a way of not quite working out as promised. Frequently, this is because those making the promises know full well they do not intend to keep them in the first place. Texas A&M’s President, R. Bowen Loftin, has said that the accommodations for the affected workers were a key component to negotiations.
“They really deserve to be treated well, because they have treated us well. Change is always difficult. Human nature is to embrace stability and reject change. But those who embrace change and make it work for them have been the most successful.
Everybody hold on to your hats/jobs. There’s change a’comin’…