The decline of good jobs has been the defining feature of our economy for some time. The results have been disastrous for working families and the economy as a whole. The trend is continuing in Superior, only this time it is our public employers killing jobs.
UW-Superior is planning to outsource the custodians and grounds maintenance staff to a for-profit company. These jobs have always been state civil service jobs. They were usually full time, paid modest wages, but had good benefits. The 26 affected employees only average about $12 per hour.
The community reacted to this plan with strong opposition. Hundreds of letters and thousands of emails were sent to the UW-Superior chancellor. An online petition opposing contracting out received almost 4000 signatures. The Superior city council passed a resolution encouraging the university to find alternative budget cuts.
The pressure is apparently working! The decision has been moved to the UW system president in Madison.
The maintenance workers at UWS, of course, are not the cause of the budget problems. The problems were created by Governor Walker’s Act 10 budget cuts. UW-Superior lost $1.9 million in state support in each of the 2012 and 2013 fiscal years. That was more than 10% of the state’s allocation to the university. Short sighted austerity has come home to roost.
Ironically, the UW system chancellors, with 6 digit salaries, received over 3% pay raises last year while UW employees shelled out 5.6% more for retirement and 12% more for healthcare.
There are a number of reasons why contracting out is a poor budget solution. Seldom does contracting out save money. Many studies have shown contracting out ultimately costs more. Bait-and-switch low initial bids that escalate over time, costs of lower quality work, costs of work not covered by the contract, contract administration, contractor overhead and profit all add up.
But the costs to local community are real. The primary way for-profit companies reduce costs is by lowering wages and benefits. This reduction in local income trickles down to other local businesses. Often the savings are lost to the local economy as profits flow to out-of-state owners. UWS generates approximately $41.2 million in annual spending and income for Superior and Douglas County, and is responsible for sustaining about 785 full and part-time jobs for the local economy.
Another reason is that public maintenance workers are part of the university. They care. They are long time employees. They are part of the team that makes the university happen. Contract, part-time, low wage workers do not have this level of dedication.
Public services should be provided by public employees. Civil service employees are a Wisconsin idea and tradition. Civil service systems were created to deal with the corruption and poor service of private, politically connected, providers of public services. Contracting out is taking us backwards.
Contracting out hurts the entire community. We have precious few family supporting jobs left in Superior. Do we have to take the few we have and turn them into part time, minimum wage, no-future jobs?
You can help. Please call, write, or email UW System President Ray Cross today. Telephone: 608-262-0110 Email: Rcross@UWSA.edu Address: President Ray Cross, 1720 Van Hise Hall, 1220 Linden Dr., Madison, WI 53706.
Sign the on-line petition at http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/stop-uw-superior-outsourcing/?source=search