DETROIT-In January, Detroit Public Schools signed a 10-year, $78.5 million
contract with Aramark ServiceMaster Facilities Services to manage its
3,000-employee maintenance operations department.
The move, which could have eased the district's current budget woes had it
been taken sooner, was blamed by some workers and union officials for the layoff
of 69 employees only days earlier. But Senior Deputy Chief Executive Officer
Robert Moore said the layoffs were due to belt-tightening, and that although the
Aramark contract had indeed eliminated 43 sub-foreman positions, these people
had not been let go, but had been sent back to labor positions. The 69 who were
laid-off were some of 688 who have been laid off in recent months due to
shortfalls projected in the district's budget for the 2002-03 school year.
Unionized demonstrators protesting the job cuts created such a disturbance that
at a February school board meeting had to be cancelled.
Of course, the privatization will probably save the taxpayers of Detroit a
considerable sum, and deliver better services for those who matter most, the
students. In addition, Aramark ServiceMaster will revamp the district's
maintenance department to provide higher quality service. Among the planned
improvements are putting a deadline on work orders (there is currently a backlog
of 20,000) with a new software program, selling the maintenance warehouse and
buying smaller, more centrally located buildings, and giving workers district
vehicles stocked with supplies so they don't have to drive back to the warehouse