Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Tampa council backs off plan to outsource janitorial jobs

TAMPA — More than two dozen city employees avoided layoffs Thursday as the City Council rejected a cost-cutting plan to outsource janitorial work to a private company.

The 6-1 vote came after several janitorial workers pleaded with council members to spare their jobs, saying that the cuts would leave many veteran city employees without health insurance, and with little way to start a new career. But the council warned that with the slumping economy, it may have only been delaying the inevitable.

The two-year agreement with United Services Group, based in Clearwater, would have saved the city $392,440 a year, but at the cost of 27 city jobs, a price the council was not willing to pay.

"These aren't just jobs, these aren't just positions, these are people, these are our co-workers," said council member John Dingfelder. "It's good to have efficiency task forces and all these fancy names, but they lose sight of what we're really talking about, and that's the people who were here this morning."

Mayor Pam Iorio had argued that the privatization move, part of a larger cost-savings effort, was necessary to save money in a time of reduced property tax revenue.

An earlier plan, which the city this month decided to scale back, would have contracted out security work, too, with dozens of more layoffs as a result.

But employees such as Robert C. Tracy, 54, who helps maintain Macfarlane Park, begged the council to consider the ramifications of its cost-cutting move.

"I cannot walk out there and turn around and start all over," Tracy said. "I'm asking that you look this thing over very carefully before you put us all on the street."

Council members were particularly concerned about the issue of health insurance for workers like Ronald L. Starr, 55, who pleaded with the council to save his job in the parking division and his medical coverage, which he relies on to treat his diabetes.

The proposed contract with United Services Group did not include medical coverage, leading council members to deduce that under the contract, their employees could have netted as little as $7.50 per hour after paying for health insurance themselves, perhaps as little as half what janitorial workers had earned working for the city.

"You're looking at a lot of employees, not just me, who are in the same boat," Starr said. "There's other ways you can do things around here other than taking people's jobs away."

But despite their relative sympathy for Starr and his colleagues, council members warned that difficult decisions lie ahead.

"At some point, there are going to be layoffs," council Chairman Thomas Scott said.

Scott and other council members said when the time comes, the city should consider cutting spending across the board, rather than specifically targeting some of the city's lowest-paid workers, as they saw it, in the proposed janitorial layoffs.

They also took aim at government waste, pointing to a newspaper report this week that said the city spends more than $30,000 annually on bottled water — more than enough to cover the salary of one of the workers whose job was on the line Thursday.

"If we can't find $400,000 out of a half-billion-dollar budget, then we don't deserve to be here," Dingfelder said.

Tom Kaplan can be reached at (813) 226-3404 or

Tampa council backs off plan to outsource janitorial jobs 06/26/08 [Last modified: Monday, June 30, 2008 11:27am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. ICYMI: Florida education news in review, week of July 16, 2017


    Seems like Broward County has started a domino effect. It was the first school board to commit to filing a lawsuit against the state and its controversial education bill, House Bill 7069. Then, the St. Lucie County School Board signed on, too. A running tally of school boards that have reportedly expressed interested in …

    Kali Davis (left), training director for Springboard to Success, helps to coach Justin Black (center), who will be starting his third year of teaching PE at Melrose Elementary, as he works to instruct students in a math lesson during the Spring Board program of Summer Bridge at Woodlawn Elementary School in St. Petersburg.
  2. In advertising, marketing diversity needs a boost in Tampa Bay, nationally


    TAMPA — Trimeka Benjamin was focused on a career in broadcast journalism when she entered Bethune-Cookman University.

    From left, Swim Digital marketing owner Trimeka Benjamin discusses the broad lack of diversity in advertising and marketing with 22 Squared copywriter Luke Sokolewicz, University of Tampa advertising/PR professor Jennifer Whelihan, Rumbo creative director George Zwierko and Nancy Vaughn of the White Book Agency. The group recently met at The Bunker in Ybor City.
  3. Kushner to testify before two intelligence committees


    WASHINGTON— President Donald Trump's senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner is set to make a second appearance on Capitol Hill — he will speak with the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday, one day after he is scheduled to speak with Senate Intelligence Committee investigators behind closed doors.

    White House senior adviser Jared Kushner is scheduled to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee and the House Intelligence Committee. [Associated Press]
  4. Rays blow lead in ninth, lose in 10 to Rangers (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Rays manager Kevin Cash liked the way Alex Cobb was competing Friday night. He liked the way the hard contact made by the Rangers batters went away after the second or third inning. So as the game headed toward the ninth, there was no doubt in Cash's mind that sending Cobb back to the mound was …

    Rays starter Alex Cobb can hardly believe what just happened as he leaves the game in the ninth after allowing a leadoff double then a tying two-run homer to the Rangers’ Shin-Soo Choo.
  5. Exhumation of Dalí's remains finds his mustache still intact


    FIGUERES, Spain — Forensic experts in Spain have removed hair, nails and two long bones from Salvador Dalí's embalmed remains to aid a court-ordered paternity test that may enable a woman who says she is the surrealist artist's daughter to claim part of Dalí's vast estate.

    Salvador Dal? died in 1989 leaving vast estate.