Marching, rallying, and a hunger strike organized by the Tufts Labor Coalition (TLC) have not succeeded in halting the university’s plans to cut janitors’ jobs. On June 8th, the Tufts administration released a university-wide email announcing the commencement of janitorial cuts and the larger reorganization of custodial staff.
“I was very sad and shocked when we received the email that six people had already been cut, because that was something we were not expecting,” said Sofia Adams, a member of TLC. Ideally TLC was hoping there would be no cuts until July 26, when the current contract ends. Adams says it’s unclear why the university decided to move forward now.
In a statement to Somerville Neighborhood News, Kimberly M. Thurler, Director of Public Relations at Tufts University said the decision was out of their hands. “Custodial staffing decisions are made by the custodians’ employer, DTZ, in accordance with the collective bargaining agreement between DTZ and the SEIU, the union representing the custodians. Tufts is not a party to those discussions or agreements.”
However, Adams said that is not quite true. She said the reason that the cuts are happening is because Tufts wants to save money, and DTZ told the university administration they could achieve that goal by eliminating positions.
Paula Castillo has worked as a janitor at Tufts for 19 years and said, “I believe that they are all involved, DTZ says it is the administration’s decision, and DTZ says it is the Union’s fault. We don’t know what is happening with them, so we feel that we are alone.”
Castillo said the administration has broken its previous commitment. The most recent agreement gives janitors one week to recruit volunteers with high seniority who are willing to be laid off during the quiet summer months. This past week, janitors mobilized and secured enough volunteers for summer layoffs. However, the university still moved ahead with permanent cuts.
Although Castillo has not been laid off, she said, “It is already affecting us, including me. All my co-workers are worried about who will be laid off first.”
Tufts said DTZ has committed to offering affected employees alternative employment opportunities, but TLC states the few open positions that exist in other DTZ-managed locations are not comparable; most are only temporary jobs, are far from janitors’ homes and inaccessible by public transportation, are part-time and do not include benefits.
“The university and the union didn’t promise anything,” said Castillo. “They just said the cuts would happen.”
TLC remains committed to safeguarding janitorial jobs, and janitors continue to reach out to their union for support. DTZ has not responded to the request for comment.
Somerville Neighborhood News is a production of Somerville Community Access Television, made by professional journalists, volunteers and staff. The half-hour news show has as its mission to provide a lively, informative newscast focusing on the events, issues and information impacting Somerville residents.