In his 30-plus years working for the housekeepers union, Charles Gooch says that he has never seen anything like what is happening now.
Duke has already changed housekeeper shifts so that some staff now have to work on weekends. However, shifts will be upended even more drastically beginning next week. According to Gooch, former president of Local 77—the union representing housekeeping and Marketplace employees—facilities staff at Duke will lose their existing shifts and workplace, and will have to bid for new hours and buildings.
"People are going to start bidding on their jobs next week, Oct. 1 through 5, by seniority," Gooch said.
In response to the changes, Gooch resigned as president of Local 77 Sept. 20.
“That’s my protest against all the changes I can’t do nothing about,” he said.
In response to a request to confirm the changes, Leslye Kornegay, director of environmental services, wrote in an email to The Chronicle that the restructuring complies with the collective bargaining agreement and was reviewed with the union beforehand.
Rebidding will be based solely on seniority, Gooch said, and existing shifts may be eliminated or consolidated. The Chronicle spoke with four housekeepers who confirmed these changes but requested anonymity out of fear of potential retaliation.
Facilities management promised that no job would be cut after rebidding, Gooch said, but there is no guarantee that staff will end up at the same building that they have been working at—some of them for over a decade. The four housekeepers The Chronicle spoke to were worried about having to potentially reshape their lifestyle around a new building and new hours.
Gooch detailed a potential scenario for a junior housekeeper facing rebidding.
"Now with the new bidding schedule, since I don't have much seniority, I may lose my spot," he said. "I'm going to have to [take the] third shift or I have to quit or transfer up to another position, find something else to do. It's going to affect more people than we think it is. We won't know til it happens.”
The collective bargaining agreement signed July 2017 prevents the union from negotiating shifts, Gooch said.
All four of the housekeepers The Chronicle spoke to wanted to keep their original locations and shifts, but noted that anyone with more seniority could bump them into an unfamiliar building with different hours.
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Additionally, the shifts will be different regardless of where housekeepers may end up. Gooch said that there are currently nine shifts that will get cut down to four, with the 3:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. shift being one of the notable eliminations.
He added that management told employees who work that shift that they will keep their “third shift premium” even if they move jobs, meaning someone could take a later shift and force someone who has never worked a late-night shift into that job.
Facilities staff will also be taking on more responsibility. Management is planning to phase out the distinction between housekeepers who focus on detail cleaning and utility workers who handle heavy equipment, according to Gooch and four housekeepers. Housekeepers will receive training on how to use machines, such as a floor scrubber, in addition to their regular workload—without extra compensation.
Three of the housekeeping staff said they have no issue with change generally speaking, but believe these changes are not beneficial to either the housekeepers or the customers in their buildings.
They also take issue with the way the changes are being handled. Three housekeepers said they did not see the union—which represents roughly 500 of the 900 facilities and Marketplace dining staff, according to Gooch—modifying Kornegay’s proposals.
The housekeepers said that the week before Hurricane Florence, a group of them requested to have a meeting with Kornegay to discuss the impending rebidding process. At the meeting, which took place in Perkins Library, she explained the changes were in line with what other universities are doing.
Kornegay wrote that changes are implemented to balance operational needs with existing staff.
“Duke takes pride in maintaining a clean, sanitary and safe environment in our facilities for the campus community and visitors,” Kornegay wrote. “These changes are made after careful consideration for how to best meet the operational needs of the university while balancing our staffing and housekeeping resources.”
When emailed for confirmation of the changes described by housekeepers and Gooch and for further comment, Kornegay replied back, “At this time facilities management has given our official response.”
The four housekeepers expressed appreciation for working at Duke and how much they value their relationships with faculty and students in their buildings. Nevertheless, they felt betrayed and worried about what the future holds.
Gooch said he did not understand facilities management’s rationale for these changes.
"Why do you need the whole department to change their schedule when you could have a few people to do what you need,” he said. “Why do you have to change their livelihood?”