The Chattanooga City Council will weigh in today on a statewide outsourcing plan that could affect more than 160 local higher-education facility workers.
Council members Demetrus Coonrod and Russell Gilbert have sponsored a measure urging the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and Chattanooga State Community College to opt out of the state facilities management contract with Chicago-based Jones Lang Lasalle. Under the agreement, signed in May by Gov. Bill Haslam, each state school campus will make its own decision whether to use the real estate management firm.
Key concerns cited in the letter include contract provisions that allow JLL to transfer employees to managed properties within a 50-mile radius of their existing jobs and switch from a pension plan to a 401(k) retirement plan.
The resolution comes three weeks after Michael McCamish, associate professor of criminal justice at Chattanooga State, and Jared Story, administrative assistant for UTC housing and residence life, publicly asked for the council's support.
"I know how hard my coworkers work," Story, a United Campus Workers member, said of the university's 110 custodial and maintenance employees. "They work very hard and depend on the stable wages and benefits that a state job provides."
Outsourcing will drive down wages and erode their benefits and retirement, he said.
"The people who are vulnerable here are not the faculty, but we realize we could be next," McCamish said. "The people who are vulnerable are the most vulnerable workers on our campuses across the state."
More than half of Chattanooga State's faculty signed a petition against the outsourcing plan this spring, he said.
The council letter cites opposition to the outsourcing plan by the Student Government Association of UTC and the faculty senates of both schools.
UTC has not made a decision on the proposed outsourcing agreement, but discussions are ongoing, according to a statement from Richard Brown, executive vice chancellor of finance and administration for the university.
Nancy Patterson, vice president of college advancement and public relations for Chattanooga State, said in an email the school has no plan to outousce at this time.
In April, a majority of the state's 132 senators and representatives sent a letter to Haslam seeking a delay on the five-year JLL contract, which applies to 7,500 state-owned properties.
The governor said the facilities management contract is intended to be a flexible tool for universities and other state departments to "participate in varying ways to best fit their needs and help them provide the very best service at the lowest possible cost," according to Haslam press secretary Jennifer Donnals.
Haslam administration officials have emphasized the JLL agreement provides protection for state employees.
The council letter questions how the administration can keep such promises because "it is unclear how the same number of employees can be employed with comparable benefits and produce cost savings."
Contact staff writer Paul Leach at 423-757-6481 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @pleach_tfp.