OSHKOSH – The University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh will not pursue a proposal to outsource custodial and grounds staff, the chancellor said Monday.
The decision came after the university faced protests last week from custodial staff and faculty as well as student pushback against a UW-Oshkosh proposal to consider hiring a private contractor for buildings and grounds work.
In an email to all UW-Oshkosh students and staff Monday, Chancellor Andy Leavitt said the university will maintain an "internally managed custodial and groundskeeping staff."
"Over the last few weeks, I have received numerous emails, letters, notes and input from current custodial and groundskeeping staff members. Shared governance leaders, other colleagues, UWO alumni and community stakeholders also reached out with concerns and alternatives."
The email said the university continues to face employee recruitment and retention challenges, which was the main reason it had been considering the outsourcing option.
The email did not share specific information about how it would fix that problem, but Leavitt said it would "quickly investigate and integrate" some options. He outlined a goal to get that plan in place within the next 30 days with the help of Interim Vice Chancellor for Finance and Administration Bob Roberts.
A university statement also said the decision is "in the best interest of the university."
"I thank the entire UWO community and our many partners and stakeholders for their patience and professionalism while we continued the necessary work to investigate options in the best interest of the institution," Leavitt said in the email.
On Aug. 22, Roberts sent an email to custodians and grounds employees informing them the school was considering contracting with SSC Services — a company based in Knoxville, Tennessee, that works with other UW System campuses, including UW-Green Bay.
The university held a Q&A with staff and faculty on Aug. 25.
University officials said the current employees would have opportunities to work for SSC Services for higher pay, but many worried about losing state benefits.
In response to the proposal, dozens of University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh employees marched Tuesday in protest.
David Siemers, chapter president for the local American Federation of Teachers union that helped organize the protest and a petition against the outsourcing, said the group was "very happy today."
Siemers said the union was pleased to be a part of the process and doesn't think the change would have happened without the entire university community — from staff, faculty and students — coming together.
"We all worked together for the outcome that is beneficial to janitors and grounds crew," he said. "But this will be beneficial to the university as a whole, which will be well served by the workers staying university employees."
Three different groups, including the union, started petitions against the university potentially outsourcing the jobs. Another petition was started by staff and a third by UW-Oshkosh students. Siemers presented all three to the chancellor at 1 p.m. Monday.
In total, more than 1,500 people signed in support of the employees.
Siemers said alumni and staff at other UW System schools signed to support the custodial staff. He feels the support of so many to advocate for keeping more public sector jobs is a good thing for the whole state.
"These are our public institutions," he said. "We need to take care of them."
This article originally appeared on Oshkosh Northwestern: UW-Oshkosh chancellor says it will not outsource custodial staff