T janitors say private vendors cut health benefits

Fiscal board members vow to break the contracts if true

JANITORS FOR THE private vendors contracting with the MBTA, who could go on strike on Friday if no agreement is reached, told alarmed members of the Fiscal and Management Control Board that the companies are cutting corners by reducing workers schedule by one hour so they don’t qualify for health and other benefits.

“I get out and clean and make sure that T is clean and sanitized,” Jorge Rivera, one of the janitors who addressed the fiscal board on Monday. “It’s not fair for them to cut my benefits away, it’s not fair for them to do this to us. I’m just so upset.”

Brian Lang, the union representative on board, called the allegations “unconscionable” and urged the board to “break the contract” if they find it to be true.

“I would like to know if this is going on in our stations,” said Lang. “I know they’re not our direct employees, but I think if we discover if those are the practices that are going on, we should investigate that, and I would say they need to change. I would make a motion that we break those contracts.”

Board chairman James Aiello concurred. “If these contractors don’t serve to our standards, I think we should contemplate putting it back out to bid,” he said.

In 2013, T officials privatized the janitorial work of the transit agency by contracting the work out to two cleaning companies, SJ Services and ABM, in combined performance-based contracts worth $36.5 million for three years, according to a report to the annual report to the Legislature this summer.  But the report said the companies were paid more than $53 million, apparently because the firms were paid based on staffing levels rather than performance-based standards. When the MBTA exercised the option years of the contract, the agency moved back to the original performance-based standards, saying the change will save the agency nearly $8.1 million over the next two years.

Meet the Author

Jack Sullivan

Senior Investigative Reporter, CommonWealth

About Jack Sullivan

Jack Sullivan is now retired. A veteran of the Boston newspaper scene for nearly three decades. Prior to joining CommonWealth, he was editorial page editor of The Patriot Ledger in Quincy, a part of the GateHouse Media chain. Prior to that he was news editor at another GateHouse paper, The Enterprise of Brockton, and also was city edition editor at the Ledger. Jack was an investigative and enterprise reporter and executive city editor at the Boston Herald and a reporter at The Boston Globe.

He has reported stories such as the federal investigation into the Teamsters, the workings of the Yawkey Trust and sale of the Red Sox, organized crime, the church sex abuse scandal and the September 11 terrorist attacks. He has covered the State House, state and local politics, K-16 education, courts, crime, and general assignment.

Jack received the New England Press Association award for investigative reporting for a series on unused properties owned by the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, and shared the association's award for business for his reporting on the sale of the Boston Red Sox. As the Ledger editorial page editor, he won second place in 2007 for editorial writing from the Inland Press Association, the nation's oldest national journalism association of nearly 900 newspapers as members.

At CommonWealth, Jack and editor Bruce Mohl won first place for In-Depth Reporting from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors for a look at special education funding in Massachusetts. The same organization also awarded first place to a unique collaboration between WFXT-TV (FOX25) and CommonWealth for a series of stories on the Boston Redevelopment Authority and city employees getting affordable housing units, written by Jack and Bruce.

About Jack Sullivan

Jack Sullivan is now retired. A veteran of the Boston newspaper scene for nearly three decades. Prior to joining CommonWealth, he was editorial page editor of The Patriot Ledger in Quincy, a part of the GateHouse Media chain. Prior to that he was news editor at another GateHouse paper, The Enterprise of Brockton, and also was city edition editor at the Ledger. Jack was an investigative and enterprise reporter and executive city editor at the Boston Herald and a reporter at The Boston Globe.

He has reported stories such as the federal investigation into the Teamsters, the workings of the Yawkey Trust and sale of the Red Sox, organized crime, the church sex abuse scandal and the September 11 terrorist attacks. He has covered the State House, state and local politics, K-16 education, courts, crime, and general assignment.

Jack received the New England Press Association award for investigative reporting for a series on unused properties owned by the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, and shared the association's award for business for his reporting on the sale of the Boston Red Sox. As the Ledger editorial page editor, he won second place in 2007 for editorial writing from the Inland Press Association, the nation's oldest national journalism association of nearly 900 newspapers as members.

At CommonWealth, Jack and editor Bruce Mohl won first place for In-Depth Reporting from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors for a look at special education funding in Massachusetts. The same organization also awarded first place to a unique collaboration between WFXT-TV (FOX25) and CommonWealth for a series of stories on the Boston Redevelopment Authority and city employees getting affordable housing units, written by Jack and Bruce.

Roxanne Rivera, vice president of the workers’ union 32BJ SEIU, said nearly half of the 300 janitors who clean the T stations have either been laid off or had their hours slashed as the two companies have adjusted to the performance-based standards.

“That is cruel and that is wrong,” she said before leading dozens of purple-clad janitors out of the room chanting for a strike.