After a dispute that escalated to campus picketing by the University of Wisconsin custodial staff, the university has conceded to change the second shift back to its original time.
The start time will return to 5 p.m., an hour earlier than the new 6 p.m. start time, which was put into effect in August and sparked the debate in the first place.
Talks to consider reinstatement of the original start time began after several complaints were made by custodial staff members and their union following the announcement of the change.
The reinstatement of the original start time will go into effect Nov. 23. The change will not apply to second-shift custodians in Grainger Hall and Wisconsin Institutes for Medical Research, who were hired with the expectation of a 6 p.m. start time.
The shift change was initially made as part of an effort to increase the productivity of a shrinking custodial staff.
Custodians were angry because the later start meant they were not finished until 2 a.m., meaning less sleep for workers who had to wake up to help their children or for another job.
Alan Fish, associate vice chancellor of the academic staff, said though the change produced a small gain in production, it was not worth the “human cost” of custodians having to work an hour later.
“We really need to keep our partnership with our staff, and this was obviously not working, so we wanted to rethink it,” Fish said.
Custodians had to do a lot to acquire the reinstatement of their original start time, said Randy Brink, president of the custodial union.
“It wasn’t easy,” Brink said. “We just kept appealing to higher levels of management and pointing out the problem.”
Efforts by union members included a picket that took place Oct. 7 in front of the Service Building on University Avenue.
Brink was especially pleased with the involvement of Vice Chancellor Darrell Bazzell and Fish, who he said were “very helpful and understanding.”
“I want to say nothing but good things about [them],” Brink said.
Although negotiations have reached this one conclusion, both sides were in agreement that the issues of productivity are not completely resolved.
The amount of custodial staff has decreased over the years because of budgetary pressures while the campus itself has expanded, Fish explained.
More dialogue is expected to take place in the coming months to continue reevaluating all three shifts and how to make them more productive so that custodians can continue to effectively maintain the cleanliness of the campus, he said.
Fish added that the university hopes to find a way to increase productivity on a more “collaborative basis” this time around, continuing to involve both supervisors and front-line staff.
Brink said he is confident that negotiations will continue to produce results that both sides “can live with,” and he looks forward to continued discussions. He expressed satisfaction with the university’s current responsiveness to custodial complaints.
“I’m really very happy with the way this all turned out,” Brink said. “Not because we necessarily got what we wanted, but because we were able — both our parties were able — to act in good faith and come up with a resolution everybody could accept.”