Custodial workers at Ocean County College on Tuesday called on the institution's Board of Trustees to reconsider a plan to eliminate their jobs and hire an outside contractor.
"We have committed our lives and our careers at this college," said Thomas Zaborowski, who works the night shift. "We planned to end our careers here until last Wednesday when the rumors were confirmed."
Zaborowski said the college privatizing custodial services won't mean "better labor," but will negatively affect the lives of long-time employees and their families.
"I've been here for four years, two years as a reservist," said Ellen Parashis, another custodial employee who often works at night. "I couldn't wait to work here full time. I'm proud to be here."
"You're just going to throw us out, and it's not right," she told board members. "I went out and got my boiler's license. I was so happy to go out and try to advance."
Sarah Winchester, the college's vice president for finance, said a request for proposals has been written that would require whatever company takes over custodial operations to hire current employees.
"The college is going to require that the company hire all of the current employees at their current rate of pay," said Winchester.
But the assurance of a job – at least initially – didn't pass muster with workers, who said they would lose their health benefits and pension if privatization occurred. They also said promises of a job and a steady pay rate might not last.
"We'll get hired at our current rate of pay," said Zaborowski. "But who's to say they will not fire us for any reason, or no reason – which is allowed in New Jersey – a couple months after that. Then they could bring in their low-paid employees."
Chris Berzinski, a field representative with the New Jersey Education Association, is representing the custodial employees in the matter, and called the privatization proposal "a mistake."
"If the college wants to privatize because they think they can save some money on some poorly paid private employees with no benefits, the old adage 'you get what you pay for' is going to apply," he said.
Berzinski said other employers have found that privatization is not always the best option for saving money.
"Ultimately, you will find that you have less reliable employees in your buildings, at a greater cost, over whom you have no direct control," he said.
College officials did not wish to comment.
If the plan goes through a private company would take over custodial services in June.