CTU report: Layoff of 468 custodians will add to filth at schools

SHARE CTU report: Layoff of 468 custodians will add to filth at schools

The Chicago Teachers Union is adding its voice to the chorus denouncing the conditions of school buildings since Chicago Public Schools privatized custodial services last spring.

The imminent layoff of 468 custodians is only going to add to the filth, the union said in a research report released Thursday. The report accuses Aramark of breaking promises.

“The $260 million CPS is contracted to pay Aramark is apparently not going to be used to staff sufficient numbers of school custodians,” the report said. “Some of that $260 million will be wasted on the purchase of Zamboni machines that cannot move from floor to floor in schools without sufficiently sized elevators.”

Asurvey for the report was conducted back in June, three months after the Board of Education voted to approve the three-year contract putting Aramark in charge of custodial workers and supplies. Of about 1,000 CTU members who responded — out of about 26,000 total — 74 percent said custodial service was worse than before the March 1 privatization. No teachers or schools were named.

Aramark spokeswoman Karen Cutler called the report “replete with inaccurate information beginning with the fact that the data referenced is from a time period before Aramark even began full implementation of the new custodial program” after schools let out in June.

She said in an email that implementation in 550 school buildings continues and that the custodians now in schools are “the same ones who have been working in the schools for years.

“We will not be deterred by these attacks on our reputation and remain focused on delivering what we promised: clean schools and $18 million in savings,” Cutler wrote.

CPS spokesman Joel Hood pointed to the time lapse since the survey was taken. He said Thursday that Aramark took over in April after spring break but cut no staff before the end of the school year.

In selling the Aramark contract to the Board of Education, Chief Administrative Officer Tim Cawley touted up to $40 million in savings, cleaner schools and principals and teachers freed up to focus on instruction, not buildings.

But teachers surveyed by the union reported bouts of bed bugs; childrenpulled out of school because of filth; teachers having to sweep their own rooms; and urine left in toilets overnight.

“We were promised ‘hospital’ cleanliness,” one wrote. “Maybe they meant the type of hospital in which visitors contract MRSA”

Mayor Rahm Emanuel said on Tuesday that Aramark would have to “live up to that contract and clean up the schools or they can clean out their desks and get out.”

An Aramark official told the board president Tuesday that the company would be adding more than 50 more custodians to schools “at its own expense.”

Several hundred Chicago principals already said in a survey through AAPPLE, an activist group under the Chicago Principals and Administrators Association, that staff members spent more time than ever before cleaning schools themselves. AAPPLE has called for the contract to be canceled.

The union representing the custodians who’ll lose their jobs by Sept. 30 has said that getting rid of more than 400 custodians is cutting “too deep to maintain the same level of cleanliness.”

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