Faculty want out with outsourcing
March 23, 2022
UW-River Falls faculty have expressed concern with the possibility of outsourcing custodial staff on campus.
John Heppen, a faculty member on campus, hosted a meeting to discuss these concerns and what faculty members could do about them. The University is considering outsourcing with the Elevating Solutions in Facilities Management, or ESFM, group. According to their website, they are a Compass Group Organization, which is their parent company, that focuses on hospitality. The company also claims through their unique model of managing they are able to maintain a client retention rate of 97%.
The Merriam Webster dictionary defines outsourcing as, “to procure (something, such as some goods or services needed by a business or organization) from outside sources and especially from foreign or nonunion suppliers: to contract for work, jobs, etc., to be done by outside or foreign workers.” The main reason for outsourcing custodial and ground services on campus that has been expressed to the faculty is the lack of retention that has occurred over a number of years. This would be a solution for staff to not have to worry about the staffing on campus. This company hires a variety of people to work in an area such as custodial services and proceeds to send them to different campuses and locations they have contracts with.
This is one of the issues that Heppen and other faculty are concerned about. As Heppen led the meeting and highlighted some of the main issues they see with the outsourcing company coming in, having staff not dedicated specifically to our campus was a major concern. Heppen said, “Someone who is assigned in Somerset could be asked to go work in New Richmond. People who work for this company are all over the place.” Having staff on campus who not only know the physical campus but also are connected to the students is of importance to faculty concerned about this issue.
Tovah Flygare, an adjunct professor in the department of agriculture economics, expressed, “I've been a part of various projects with our current grounds supervisor and staff, incorporating campus as a living laboratory into classes and events. We have been awarded and successfully completed several grants already, and we are in the middle of another for the benefit of UWRF. I cannot imagine how this grant work could happen if grounds were run with an outsourcing contract instead of knowledgeable staff.” Flygare emphasized this same regard towards the custodial staff currently on campus, “When I'm working with students on a project in a campus building, the custodial staff are always there to help, knowledgeable about campus equipment, and many of them know the students so there is a positive connection that makes projects and service-learning opportunities easier and better.”
Another concern lies in the fact that Compass Group is the parent company of another outsourcing portion of campus, Chartwells, which manages both catering and dining on campus. Heppen expressed concern at the meeting for a “bundling” deal that the company could offer due to already having ties to services on campus.
Melissa Davis, the custodial services supervisor for the academic buildings chimed in, “I remain hopeful that in light of this, campus will come to realize the great resource that we are and things we provide, as custodial, for our campus community and student focus. It is really what we enjoy doing, being student-focused and providing a safe and clean learning environment for those students.”
A committee on campus is currently gathering information on this issue and what outsourcing could bring to campus. This committee will present its findings to the Chancellor on April 15. On May 1, the Chancellor will be making an official decision on if the campus will choose to use this company to outsource both custodial and ground services on campus.