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Saugus pushes back deadline for proposals on school custodial staff replacement

Saugus school custodians including, from left, Carlos Gonzalez, John McBride, Tom Lowe, Steve Raso, Rick Nelson, Angela McGeorge and Michael Mabee might lose their jobs if the town decides to privatize custodial services.
Saugus school custodians including, from left, Carlos Gonzalez, John McBride, Tom Lowe, Steve Raso, Rick Nelson, Angela McGeorge and Michael Mabee might lose their jobs if the town decides to privatize custodial services. (Spenser R. Hasak)

SAUGUS — Thursday is the final day for cleaning companies and custodians to express interest in school janitorial jobs.

Proposals were originally due back by the first of the month, but when April 1 came, the deadline was pushed back 10 days to Thursday.

The Request for Proposals, a 75-page document obtained by The Item, states that “the School District currently staffs custodial/cleaning and light maintenance services. The District is seeking proposals for custodial/cleaning services from private companies …”

New hires are expected to “begin July 1, 2019,” a day after the current contracts expire.

“The proposer must demonstrate the needed organizational abilities to successfully implement the transition from our current service to the new program within the proposed timeline,” according to the document.

Listed under staffing requirements, the RFP specifies that the contractor must agree to interview Saugus Public Schools employees “who may be displaced by the execution of this contract” for open positions.

Jim Durkin, legislative director of AFSCME Council 93, said the current custodial team would be offered their jobs back with about a 30 percent pay cut and fewer benefits.

The School Department declined to comment on the issue, citing ongoing contract negotiations with the union.

The request outlines responsibilities for the job, which includes sweeping and vacuuming carpets, upholstered furniture, and air diffusers; emptying waste receptacles, all recycling receptacles, and all sanitary napkin containers; trash removal; scrubbing, stripping, and sealing floors, dusting and washing columns, doors, and door frames, washing the windows, cleaning wall fans, pictures, plaques, file cabinets, book cases, office furniture; replacing light bulbs; and removing graffiti.

Rick Nelson, who has spent nearly two decades as a custodian at Saugus High School and fears he will lose his job, told The Item he cleans and repairs damage done by vandals every single day.

Nelson doesn’t believe employees of a private company will offer the same level of care.

“When you privatize services, you replace a guy like Rick — a custodian, a caretaker — with a cleaning crew,” said Durkin. “You’re losing a guy like Rick and replacing him with what amounts to a revolving door of strangers.”

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