by Emily Moss
Faced with a School Committee proposal to outsource custodial work, custodians currently employed by the Newton Public Schools have expressed their fears at losing their jobs.
The School Committee argues that allowing for the hiring of non-unionized custodians would “save significant money that, especially given tight budgetary constrictions, could be reinvested for educational purposes and would result in cleaner schools,” according to a report compiled by the Massachusetts Department of Labor Relations.
Yet outsourcing, by definition, would mean that all 80 custodians working for the school district would be laid off, according to head custodian Timothy Keefe and an article in the Newton Tab.
“I have 42 years on the job,” said Keefe, adding that many custodians are Newton residents who pay taxes.
“You know, I think we enjoy this job and try to keep it up as best we can,” he said.
South custodian Ernie Peltier—who has worked at the school ever since it was built 57 years ago and has seen his children graduate from the Newton Public Schools—expressed concern for younger colleagues.
“Mr. Curry’s got 33 years,” he said, referring to a Bigelow custodian who is the head of the Newton Custodians’ Association. “Where’s he going to get a job if they outsource?”
Moreover, Peltier believes it is unlikely that outsourcing will allow the School Committee to achieve its goals of saving money or ensuring cleaner schools.
“Believe me, most [districts] go back to the regular people after awhile,” he said.
However, School Committee Chairman Matt Hills was quoted in the Tab as saying, “We are motivated by one thing in all of our negotiations—to do what is best for the school system, including its 13,000 students 2,000 employees and teachers and thousands of parents.”