Cassia County public school maintenance and custodial workers are no longer state employees. As of the beginning of this month, they work for a private company, ABM Industries. The school district says this will save money, but some employees are concerned they will receive fewer benefits.
Chris Walquist, a night custodian in Burley for eight years, said he was blindsided by change.
“The thing that hurts the most in this process is we were so left in the dark on it," he said.
The school district said it made the decision in open board meetings. All staff were guaranteed to keep their jobs, but Walquist and others chose not to stay on.
“I just decided pretty much right off the bat that this wasn't a company I felt comfortable transitioning to," he said.
He found out he would lose his state pension plan; it would be replaced by a 401(k). He also said the private company’s other benefits weren’t as good. We reached out to ABM by email and phone and did hear back. The school district said in an email that about 12 of the 60 maintenance employees did not transition to ABM.
Walquist found another job at an insurance agency, but others may not have had that flexibility.
Marta Hernandez, co-president of Cassia County's teachers’ union, says that's especially true for the district's Spanish-speaking employees.
“Some of them are not able to obtain other employment due to language barriers," Hernandez said and that the district didn’t provide support to those employees to help them understand the new contract.
The district’s communication officer, Debbie Critchfield, wrote in an email that translation services were available at some, but not all meetings. She also said the district custodial workers received a 1% pay increase when they started working for ABM. The private company also operates custodial and maintenance services in the Nampa School District.
Find reporter Rachel Cohen on Twitter @racheld_cohen
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