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Aramark, CPS change plan to cut school janitors

Today was supposed to be the last day of work for 468 janitors in Chicago Public Schools.

But Aramark, the private contractor now overseeing the management of custodians in CPS, is changing that plan after complaints about cleanliness from principals, parents and teachers.

The union representing privately employed janitors in CPS said 178 janitors will keep their jobs and the remaining 290 will work for another month. Aramark spokesperson Karen Cutler confirmed those numbers and said they are working closely with the union and CPS to make sure schools have "appropriate custodial staffing levels."

“We would prefer to see no layoffs anywhere and see everybody have good paying, full-time jobs,” said Tom Balanoff, president of the Service Employees International Union Local 1.  “But again, we do think with the technology Aramark’s brought in and the readjustment on the number of janitors, we think that we will be able to maintain a good level of cleanliness in the schools.”

Balanoff said they are working to find jobs for the 290 janitors being laid off at the end of October.

CPS has had privatized cleaning services for more than a decade, but last February, the board voted to award two contracts worth a total $340 million to Aramark and SodexoMAGIC. The two companies would manage all 2,500 janitors in the school system, even though the janitors remain employed by subcontractors, like WeClean Inc. and Total Facilities, or by the Board of Education directly.

Balanoff said the change allows 83 of the longest-serving janitors employed by private subcontractors to keep their jobs. Another 95 will be hired directly as Aramark employees for at least the next 10 months.

The changes do not impact 825 janitors employed directly by the Board of Education. Those janitors are represented by SEIU Local 73. However, many of those board-funded janitors have been reassigned to other schools in light of the pending layoffs.

CPS officials did not immediately comment. It is not clear how much the move may cost and who will foot the bill, the district or Aramark.

At last week’s Board of Education meeting, district Chief Administrative Officer Tim Cawley said Aramark was “flooding the zone” to fix any issues related to school cleanliness.

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