University changes facilities, service employees’ shifts due to pandemic

By Aliza Majid, Staff Writer

Facilities and service employees at the University will have their work shifts changed for the upcoming fall semester in order to adapt to the pandemic.

“Increasing custodial activity in high-usage spaces has been prioritized throughout the pandemic and is a major aspect of F&S’s continuing virus mitigation strategies,” said Steven Breitwieser, the Manager of Communications and External Relations. “The new afternoon shift will feature approximately 100 BSWs and is designed to increase the number of staff performing work during peak occupancy times in facilities and further enhance customer-focused relationships.”

The schedule change had resulted in significant backlash from the employees due to the short notice and drastic changes. The changes would affect a third of the department’s work force and alter the work environment for many.

“They came to us with drastic changes. Originally it was going to be a third of our department’s work force who would be directed to a 1 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. shift but there was basically no mechanism for how they were going to do it,” said Justus Fortado, the Chief Steward at Service Employees International Union Local 73 and an employee at facilities and services.

The SEIU Local 73 is one of the local unions affiliated with SEIU that represents around 29,000 workers in public service. 

The current schedule for Building Service workers is as follows: early day from 4:30 a.m. –12:30 p.m, daytime from 6 a.m.-2:30 p.m, early evening from 5 p.m.-1 a.m and deep night from 11 p.m.-7 a.m.

The schedule changes the university originally required were  6 a.m.-2:30 p.m., 1:00 p.m.-9:30 p.m. and 11 p.m.-7 a.m. The 4 a.m.-12:30 p.m., 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. and 5 p.m.-1 a.m. would be eliminated from the new schedule.

“We received some extremely angry phone calls from just about anybody who had our number. We set up an emergency meeting amongst the membership over the phone on July 18th and the initial reactions were and still remain for many very upset,” Fortado said. “It was going to be very disruptive to their lives, especially people who had been on shifts sometimes for years up to this point had their lives set around it.”

The schedule change had negatively impacted many workers as the new shifts would interrupt their regular lives. Workers began contacting the SEIU in order to find a way to bring up their concerns with the University and ensure that their voices are heard in this matter.

The SEIU Local 73 representatives discussed these issues with the Facilities and Service department in order to improve the schedule and accommodate the employees’ concerns during the pandemic. 

“F&S held discussions with representatives from SEIU Local 73 and incorporated their feedback before establishing the new afternoon shift. F&S and the union worked together to develop a responsive approach for campus custodial efforts related to COVID-19,” Breitwieser said.

The new schedule alterations are as follows: 6 a.m.-2:30 p.m., 3 p.m.-11:30 p.m. and 11 p.m.-7 a.m.

“We want the University to know that we’re going to be heard, we’re going to be very visible going forward and let them know that we have concerns over this. We want to be able to sit down with them and say let’s not turn this into an opportunity to exploit the situation. We want to get back to some of the things that made this job a little more bearable,” Fortado said.

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