WKU plan privatizes 202 staff positions

Jacob Dick

WKU custodial, building services, groundskeeping and waste management employees working on the Bowling Green campus will be employed by a private company starting in August to save money in the 2016-17 budget.

On Wednesday, university administration informed faculty and staff that Sodexo, a private employment management service, would be taking over as employer for an additional 202 WKU workers. The change is supposed to save $745,000 for the next fiscal year.

President Gary Ransdell mentioned the employment change in an email about the university’s budget plans sent Wednesday afternoon.

“A particularly difficult but necessary decision is to transfer our Building Services and Grounds employees to our private contract with Sodexo, just as our private contract with Aramark several years ago,” Ransdell said in an email, referring to WKU’s food services. “Exceptions will be made for those employees who are near retirement eligibility.”

Chief Facilities Officer Bryan Russell confirmed at a media briefing Wednesday that 18 staff with 20 or more years of employment would remain under WKU.

“Its not a requirement [for retirement],” Russell said. “We chose to do this because of their years of dedication.”

Russell said staff would be given vacation and sick days while accruing days with Sodexo based on their previous employment.

At the media briefing announcing the university’s budget reduction plan, Ransdell discussed some of the changes staff can expect in August.

“Each employee in our BSA workgroup and grounds employees will receive a dollar an hour raise,” Ransdell said.

Russell said employees hired at the starting rate of $9.26 would receive that raise, and staff who were paid more than that amount will have their salaries adjusted with smaller raises.

Russell also said children of staff currently enrolled in the university will still receive tuition discounts for attending WKU. Staff will receive discounts until 2017.

According to a statement to employees from Russell and Brian Kuster, vice president of the Division of Student Affairs, this decision is linked to issues the university faces after budget cuts.

“This very difficult decision is intended to address University-wide budget pressures as well as an opportunity to create an expanded, cost-effective and mutually beneficial arrangement with Sodexo,” according to the statement.

Areas within Facilities Management, Housing and Residence Life and Downing Student Union would not be impacted, according to the statement. Employees at regional campuses will also not be effected.

WKU has had a contract with Sodexo for 20 years, and the contract will be amended at the end of the fiscal year to include additional staff.

In the statement released to staff, employees were advised that they must meet Sodexo’s terms of employment and that they can choose not to accept employment under the private company.

“What that really means is that all employees today have a job when they fill out an application with Sodexo,” Russell said.

Randell said although their employment status is changing, staff are still a part of the WKU family.

“They are going to have the same uniforms; they aren’t going to have something stamped on their head that says ‘WKU employee’ or ‘Sodexo employee,’” Ransdell said. “We will embrace each and every one tomorrow just as much as yesterday or today.”