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January 7, 1999

Facilities Management delays changes in custodians' shifts

Implementation of a Facilities Management plan to improve custodial services on the Pittsburgh campus is on hold pending a second bidding of custodial jobs. The plan, which was announced in a November memo from Facilities Management Associate Vice Chancellor Ana Guzman, had already been delayed twice to allow service workers more time to choose from among the 200-plus available positions. Implementation will result in three-quarters of the custodians working non-daylight hours (see University Times, Dec. 10).

The plan was expected to go into effect Dec. 21. The delay this time, according to John Greeno, assistant vice chancellor for employee/labor relations, was to evaluate concerns individual departments had expressed with the plan and to clarify job descript ions for the custodians.

Pitt custodians are members of Local 29 of the Service Employees International Union, AFL-CIO. Oakland campus union membership numbers 363, of which 201 are custodial service workers. As a reaction to the custodial plan, Local 29 filed a formal class acti on suit against the University in December, and several workers filed individual grievances during the original bidding process, held Dec. 9 and 10.

Under the bidding process, custodians choose positions based on seniority and job classification. No date for the re-bidding of jobs has been announced. Greeno maintained that the re-bidding of the jobs rendered the grievances moot. "It is our position that the grievances [filed] are no longer applicable and we have informed the union of that," Greeno said.

Local 29 president Billy Joe Jordan said the union plans to file another class action suit against the University on the grounds that Pitt does not have the right to make service workers change shifts under terms of the contract. "The shift changes are th e biggest thing for us. Our lawyers are studying right now if Pitt can do this legally or contractually," Jordan said. Once the plan is implemented, about 150 of the 201 custodians will be working non-daylight shifts, either 4 p.m.- 12:30 a.m. or 11 p.m.-7 a.m. Also, under the plan, the daylight shift hours will change to 8 a.m.- 4:30 p.m., from 6 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Currently , only 63 custodians work non-daylight shifts.

Jordan said the union will ask the University to waive the first two levels of the grievance process as defined by the contract, in favor of moving the grievance to an arbitrator.

Level I grievances are handled between individuals who file and supervisors; level II grievances are between University and union representatives; level III grievances involve an outside arbitrator agreed on by both sides.

Once an arbitrator has heard arguments, he or she must rule within 30 days, and the ruling is binding, according to the contract. At the December job bidding, union officials urged rank and file members to express dissatisfaction with the shift changes by filing individual grievances. Greeno said he received copies of dozens of individual grievances in addition to the class action o ne.

Jordan said that re-bidding the jobs "did nothing to change the union's position. We don't agree that Pitt has the right to [alter workers' shifts]." Regarding individual grievances, Jordan said that the union leadership was still discussing tactics to respond to the second bidding process announcement. Andy Motto, manager of custodial services, said that regardless of the grievance status the University would implement the plan. "It is not really an issue for us that the union files a grievance in terms of the date for implementation," Motto said. He said that there would be a voice-mail information announcement for Audix users when a new custodial plan implementation date is set . Oakland Local 29 members entered a contract agreement with Pitt last August after working nearly three years without a contract.

-Peter Hart

Filed under: Feature,Volume 31 Issue 9

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