JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — During the height of the pandemic, Duval County Public Schools hired a vendor, called HES facilities management.
Their mission is to keep schools clean and provide safe learning environments for students and staff.
But Elton Brown, president of the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees Local 2941 believes that isn’t the case.
“They are not providing the necessary equipment and cleaning supplies that’s needed for the custodians to clean and maintain buildings here,” said Brown.
Brown says there are some days when custodians are asked to clean a classroom and aren’t notified beforehand that there was a person who was infected with COVID-19 who had been in the room for a long period of time.
“You don’t have a clue as to what you’re stepping into and that’s very important for a person to know and like I said not having the gloves or PPE to protect them going in they are exposed as well,” said Brown.
Brown says at the beginning of summer, HES facilities management laid off a good percentage of the workforce. He says currently there’s not enough staff to do the job thoroughly and safely.
“You are putting an unnecessary strain on the remaining workers that’s there. You are asking them and requiring that much more from them that’s kind of difficult to do,” said Brown.
Brown says HES Facilities Management eliminated original hire dates of the employees impacting the custodians’ vacation, leave accruals, and health insurance.
With the new vendor, there are not enough people to do the job safely and not enough supplies, according to AFSCME Local 2941 Vice President Lora Patterson, a custodian in the district.
“Because we are short-staffed, we have to increase the numbers of rooms that each person has to clean,” she said. “We can’t always do a thorough enough job and lack basic protections of safety glasses, booties and gloves to keep ourselves safe.”
The company released a statement saying:
This is the first time we have been made aware of the Union’s allegations.
The safety and support of our employees is paramount and the Union has methods available to them to report any issues to HES.
We look forward to supporting the District and the students of DCPS as schools reopen.
DCPS released a statement saying:
“HES is a contract vendor of the school district. We have every expectation that they will fulfill the requirements of their contract. The relationship they have with their employees and representative groups is not something with which we would involve the district.”
Brown says he hopes Duval County Public Schools look into these concerns and figure out a solution for the workers.