FWCS Janitors Speak Out About Outsourcing Company, Company Reacts To Complaints

By Laura Donaldson

June 18, 2010 Updated Jun 3, 2010 at 5:28 PM EDT

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Indiana’s NewsCenter) - Fort Wayne Community School janitors are speaking out about the new outsourcing company coming to the district.

On Tuesday, the Fort Wayne Community School Board voted to let the Superintendent finalize a contract to outsource janitorial services to a company called Sodexo Management Services. This decision has some fuming.

"I am currently employed by FWCS as an engineer/custodian," a custodian who wants to remain anonymous said. "I have worked for FWCS for almost 27 years,over half of my life. The recent news of FWCS plans to hire Sodexo as the outsource company has naturally caused both anger and sadness. I have devoted over half of my life to FWCS."

A custodian's union has launched a web site against the company.

“We're going to cut every single cost so we can under bid everybody else,” Assistant Director of Communications with the Service Employees International Unions Renee Asher said. “We all know what happens when companies do that. What happens is that somebody suffers. And in this case it's going to be our schools and our communities.”

The Service Employees International Unions is the largest janitor and food service union in the United States. Asher says Sodexo has fallen short on securing buildings, employee background checks, and under staffed buildings to save money.

FWCS choose Sodexo, in part, because they could save the district $4 million, $2 million more than they anticipated.

“If they're taking that much money out of the system you have to say what's going to suffer,” Asher said.

"Absolutely nothing suffers," Sodexo Vice President of Operations Brad Lozier said. “We provide a very high level of service. “

Lozier says they have a strong record of client satisfaction. He says they retain more than 95 percent of their clients. And they look forward to providing a service for Fort Wayne Community Schools and the community in the future.

“We have some very exciting programs that we will be talking about later,” Lozier said. “About how Sodexo is becoming a partner not only to Fort Wayne Community Schools. But also to the Fort Wayne community itself.”

FWCS officials say Sodexo addressed concerns and they feel comfortable with the company.

“We would not put our students at risk,” FWCS Spokesperson Krista Stockman said. “Again, we would expect Sodexo to make sure the buildings are clean. That isn't something that we want to see. We'll be monitoring their work.”

Under the deal, the district's 217 custodians could lose their jobs. But FWCS officials say there's opportunity to apply with Sodexo.

“We plan to interview all Fort Wayne Community School employees for the jobs,” Lozier said.

FWCS officials are negotiating a contract with Sodexo and the board is expected to have a final version, June 14. If it's approved, Sodexo will begin work July 19.

Sodexo specializes in food service and facilities management. The French company employs 380,000 people around the world – including 120,000 in the U.S. The company headquarters is in Maryland.

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