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Is it fair for ETSU to outsource custodians?

Staff Report • Sep 30, 2013 at 8:26 AM

As Press Assistant News Editor Rex Barber reported earlier this month, East Tennessee State University is considering a plan to outsource the custodial jobs of some 100 employees on campus. ETSU spokesman Joe Smith said the university is only looking at the possibility of contracting custodial services (other employees in the school’s physical plant would not be affected) and there is no timetable for making a decision on the proposal. “If we were to outsource custodial services, our plan would be for each ETSU custodial service employee to have the opportunity to transfer to the new company at his/her current hourly rate,” Smith wrote in an email to the Press. “Also, we likely would offer those long-time employees who have been with ETSU for a considerable number of years and are nearing retirement to remain on our payroll under the current retirement plan.”We’ve received a number of comments from readers regarding this proposal and most were against the outsourcing. Several have said they think it is particularly callous for ETSU officials to take away the benefits of some of the university’s lowest-paid employees.Some even suggested the university would never dream of doing the same to a professor, administrator or any employee on campus with the slightest bit of political clout.We have also heard a number of alternative suggestions for saving money at the university, including selling Shelbridge — the stately home of the ETSU president. A staff of three is needed to look after the Virginia colonial-style home (built in 1921) and grounds located at the corner of North Roan Street and Eleventh Avenue.Last week, the state Building Commission approved a $2 million deal to sell a Georgian-style house in Knoxville that once served as home to five presidents of the University of Tennessee.We’d like to hear from you. Should ETSU outsource custodial services? Would that be fair to state employees now doing the job? Send your comments to Mailbag, P.O. Box 1717 Johnson City, TN 37605-1717, or mailbag@johnsoncitypress.com. Please include your name, telephone number and address for verification. We will print your responses on the Opinion pages in the coming weeks.

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