WATERLOO - The pleas of a dozen employees and a petition signed by more than 500 people wasn't enough to save the jobs of Hawkeye Community College's custodial and maintenance staff Tuesday.
The Board of Trustees voted 9-0 to approve a five-year agreement with FBG Services Corp. beginning July 1. A total of 23 full-time and four part-time employees will be laid off, although they can apply for positions with the Omaha, Neb.-based company. The contract's first-year cost is $1.03 million with a five-year total of $5.17 million.
"We'll be able to lock in costs for the next five years," said Galen Howsare, vice president of administration and finance. "And we've estimated those savings at $1.5 to $2 million." The college must cut $1.8 million expected to be slashed from its state funding for 2009-10.
Some in the audience held hand-lettered signs protesting the proposal, and Dorthea Pates, president of the union representing the workers, delivered the petitions to the board.
Roger Holeman told trustees his maintenance job "cannot be done by some minimum- wage worker off the street. … If you vote for this proposal, you are rubber-stamping the elitist view of money that this administration seems to have."
"I've given the college 25 years of my life to be kicked to the curb for someone who will work for $7.25 an hour," added maintenance worker Shawn Keefe.
"Believe me, we heard what you said," noted board Chairman Mark Birdnow. "I would like to say that we don't like this any more than you. We, as a board, have not discussed this issue before tonight. Please don't think we're a rubber-stamp board. We're not."
Howsare noted that FBG will pay more than both the minimum wage and the area's median wage for those jobs, although some Hawkeye workers would see a pay cut if the company hired them. FBG's starting custodial wage is $10 per hour compared with the median of $9.15. Its starting maintenance wage is $12 per hour compared with the median of $10.64.
Hawkeye faculty members, who are facing their own layoffs as part of the cost-cutting, spoke up for the staff.
"Outsourcing is not the answer," said Associate Professor Peg Erdman. "We need to be more creative as we look for ways to save money on this campus, but we don't need to throw away employees who have been loyal to Hawkeye."
Professor Sally Browne noted the irony of outsourcing the positions. "This college has emphasized its role in creating jobs," she said. "That it looks like we're going to violate something that community colleges have stood for for years is of concern."
In related budget-cutting, trustees approved a freeze in 2009-10 salaries and benefits for the colleges 132 full-time non-bargaining employees. It also approved a 2009-10 contract with United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America Local 855 maintaining the current wage schedule but allowing longevity increases.
Contact Andrew Wind at (319) 291-1507 or firstname.lastname@example.org.