For nearly a year, members of the United Campus Workers union, like McDaniel, and others have protested a plan by Gov. Bill Haslam that would allow outsourcing of maintenance and management of public buildings, including on college campuses. The state has repeatedly said each campus would be allowed to opt into or out of the plan, which has been met with scepticism by the union. But now, that decision to opt in or out may come at the same time the Knoxville campus has a new chancellor. Based on state timelines, campuses are expected to make decisions in early 2017, and UT President Joe DiPietro said Tuesday he hoped to have a new chancellor in spring 2017. …
Outsourcing Savings Estimates Strain ‘Credulity’
Source: Sam Stockard, Memphis Daily News, May 19, 2016
… The plan, if all departments participate, is projected to save $35.8 million by the second year of a contract for building operations and services – with the requirement state workers keep their jobs, with comparable pay and benefits as long as they perform. The contract would be available for all state properties, enabling colleges and universities, for example, to compare their costs to the contract in deciding whether to opt in, according to Cowles. … The Department of General Services started moving on the process in 2015, much to the chagrin of state employees, primarily United Campus Workers, who contend their jobs and pay will suffer. They rallied during the recent legislative session and then petitioned the governor again in late April. Several state lawmakers also raised questions about the office’s plan when it went before the Senate State and Local Government Committee in March. Some called it “corporate rhetoric,” while others said it “strains credulity.” … In early April, the state made a request for qualifications from potential facilities management service providers to determine whether they can do the job. … The state appears to be head over heels in love with Chicago-based JLL, saying it has saved the state $10 million since it took over facilities management a few years ago. Cowles points out in his presentation JLL is ranked the city’s best employer by the Nashville Business Journal. United Campus Workers is questioning why the office started looking for qualified vendors before the independent review is complete. It also is pointing out the state is continuing to change its tone throughout this situation, now softening its stance to say colleges could choose just to go with a landscaping portion of the contract or janitorial services, for example.
Campus workers present letter of concern to Haslam administration over privatization effort
Source: Richard Locker, Knoxville News Sentinel, April 26, 2016
… The governor’s facilities management outsourcing initiative is apparently the largest ever attempted by a state government. When a request for information was issued last summer to gauge interest from potential contractors, it proposed a contract covering the operation and maintenance of virtually all state-owned property, including office buildings, state parks, college and university campuses, prisons, armories and hospitals. In March, the outsourcing team issued a “business justification” for the plan estimating that it could save taxpayers $36 million a year if fully implemented, even while protecting current employees’ jobs — although their employment would be transferred to the contractor. Cowles acknowledged at the time that no firm cost comparison would be realized until a contract is bid and negotiated. Largely at the request of higher education officials, Haslam agreed to hire an outside consultant to evaluate his team’s estimates of savings and the state on March 17 started the process of selecting a contractor to perform that work.
Tennessee moves to review possible outsourcing partners
Source: Adam Tamburin, The Tennesean, April 11, 2016
The state took steps Monday to review possible options for outsourcing facilities management on college campuses and other government-owned properties. An internal review released last month by Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration suggested privatizing the management of residence halls, student centers and other properties across the state could save $36 million annually. On Monday the state released a request for qualifications, or RFQ, that will allow businesses to express interest in participating in the proposed outsourcing plan. … Critics have said outsourcing would translate to sub-par services, particularly for colleges, and slashed pay and benefits for employees. Haslam has said the savings are possible without layoffs or cuts to pay or benefits.
Critics question Haslam’s outsourcing plan
Source: Joel Ebert, The Tennessean, March 22, 2016
While proponents of the plan say the effort will result in taxpayers saving millions of dollars, Chris Dauphin, the organization’s communications director, questioned the $35.8 million in estimated savings. The figure was mentioned by Terry Cowles, director of customer-focused government, during a presentation to the Senate State and Local Government Committee in early March. On Tuesday, Dauphin told the same committee that the state can save money without having to outsource the facilities management on every state property. … Dauphin advocated for a more common-sense approach before warning that outsourcing could result in cost shifting down the line. He said a private company could decide to have annual rate increases, pointing to a contract between the Texas A&M University system and Compass Group USA, an outsourcing company, that resulted in students being forced into paying more for meal plans as a result of the privatization plan. Dauphin also explained that the 1,647 state workers at the university were forced to reapply for their jobs, with only 600 being rehired.