Employees raise labor concerns in HFSC

September 19, 2016

Photo: Katherine Landau/Georgetown Voice

Georgetown’s facilities management has not hired additional custodial staff to clean Healey Family Student Center (HFSC) since its opening in Sept. 2014, according to employees. Night shift workers say they clean the new student center on top of their regular workload, starting at 5:30am each morning.

Custodian Michael McCannon said that Robin Morey, vice president for planning and facilities management, told custodial staff that new employees would be hired specifically for the HFSC. “Robin [Morey] said they would hire somebody for this building,” McCannon said. So far, workers say, no one has been hired. Eight workers are responsible for the custodial tasks of the 44,000 square foot building, which include trash collection, vacuuming, and cleaning the bathrooms and windows.

McCannon’s contract stipulates that he is to clean 3000 square feet. He vacuums 2100 feet in Walsh, and then he is instructed to vacuum the HFSC’s Great Room and Herman Social Room. According to the student center’s website, the Social Room alone is 2000 feet, exceeding the supposed limits on his workload. Sometimes, says McCannon, workers are not able to finish cleaning before they are due to clock out at 7am.

Understaffing has been a significant concern for custodial and maintenance workers over the last few years, according to McCannon. “It’s ongoing, getting worse,” he said. McCannon attributes a bone spur that kept him out of work for nine months to excessive work. Other workers describe injuries from lifting heavy objects by themselves.

One worker who preferred to be anonymous out of fear of retaliation believes that facilities’ management is trying to avoid hiring new people by assigning more work to their current staff.

“They went up on school tuition, and then they don’t want to hire nobody,” the worker said. “They’re trying to find a way to keep from hiring people.”

Complaining, workers claim, leads to extra work being assigned. “The day after I got the grievance, I got this assignment,” McCannon said of being tasked with cleaning the building.

According to Georgetown’s media relations manager, Ryan King, facilities has been hiring or promoting employees from within. “Facilities has filled roughly 20 union represented jobs since January 2016,” King wrote in an email to the Voice. The department continues to post jobs and interview qualified candidates as positions become open.” At press time, the university has yet to comment on whether facilities has hired or plans to hire custodial staff specifically for HFSC.

As facilities renegotiates their union contract with the university, staffing and wages are two of workers’ biggest concerns. “Every time they give us a raise, the parking goes up.” said one worker. “We’re not even getting the cost of living.” Workers express a lack of faith that their supervisors or the university cares about their wellbeing.

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