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.”
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.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.