University offers buyout to maintenance staff

Media Credit: Charlie Lee | Hatchet Staff Photographer

Officials offered a buyout to members of its maintenance staff at the beginning of the month. Some private offices on campus will now have trash and recycling collected three times a week instead of five times.

The University offered buyout packages to members of its maintenance staff this month, a spokesman confirmed last week.

University spokesman Kurtis Hiatt said the “voluntary retirement incentive program” was offered to housekeeping staff employed in the Division of Operations. He said staff who fit eligibility requirements could opt into the program if “they determine it is the best option for them.”

“The program was developed with the understanding that some of the eligible employees may be considering retirement and find this an attractive benefit, which will help the University manage staffing levels in a planned fashion,” Hiatt said in an email. “The program is intended to allow the University to plan staffing levels and is not a cost-cutting measure.”

The maintenance staff buyout marks at least the fifth buyout in six years. Officials also offered six-figure buyouts to dozens of faculty in the GW School of Business last fall in a push for younger, more research-minded faculty. About 15 percent of eligible faculty in the School of Engineering and Applied Science and Columbian College of Arts and Sciences took the deals in 2009 and 2010.

Hiatt declined to say how many staff members were offered the buyout or when they would need to decide whether to accept it. Hiatt also declined to provide details of the packages.

A portion of GW’s maintenance staff is employed by Aramark, a food and facilities company that officials first partnered with in 2004. Nearly 20 open housekeeping jobs at GW are currently listed on Aramark’s website. Aramark staff declined to comment for this story.

And starting last month, trash and recycling in some private offices on campus is only collected three times a week — down from five times a week, Alicia Knight, the senior associate vice president for operations, confirmed.

Knight said the change has a “limited impact” on staff. The reduced cleaning started in the last week of August.

“As part of an ongoing commitment to continuous improvement and the efficient use of University resources, the Division of Operations undertook a review of its core housekeeping services with the goal of balancing institutional service needs with available resources,” she said.

One housekeeping staffer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because she was afraid of losing her job, said the buyout would be worth between $11,000 and $12,000 and would include health benefits for four months.

She said she has not decided whether she would accept the buyout. Employees have about a month to make their decision, she said.

“The retirement package is lousy. It’s not a good deal,” she said. “Most retirement packages are a year’s salary, but this is only 16 weeks of pay.”

Another housekeeping staffer said she learned of the deal at a meeting last week.

“They keep us in the dark about these things, and tell us not to listen to rumors. But what else do we have to go on?” she said. “Because you know, they say you don’t have to fear for the job but we see things changing every day.”

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