MBTA Janitors Start Receiving ‘Layoff’ Letters

At least 90 employees are expected to be out of work starting September 1.

Photo courtesy of 32BJ SEIU.

Photo courtesy of 32BJ SEIU

Janitors contracted through outside companies to clean the MBTA’s stops and stations have reportedly started receiving termination letters despite months of pleas and protests from workers and officials to keep employees staffed full-time.

In a letter forwarded to Boston on Wednesday, a worker who has been cleaning the T’s property for more than a decade was told that she was being laid-off as a result of janitorial service contract obligations with the transit agency.

“The layoffs are based on employee seniority and at this time you fall below the cut-off date for available positions and you will be laid off effective September 1,” said the letter from S.J. Services Inc. that was sent to an MBTA janitor. The janitor’s name was redacted at the request of 32BJ SEIU District 615, the union that represents the cleaning staff.

S.J. Services also sent out notifications to some workers telling them they have 48 hours to accept new assignments, different from the shifts and duties they have been handling.

Representatives from 32BJ SEIU District 615 said the union didn’t know about these proposed changes beforehand, and “the contemplated changes will uproot [workers’] lives, and the limited time being offered them to make this decision borders on cruelty.”

Under the terms of a contract agreement signed in 2013 between two cleaning firms—ABM Industries Inc. and S.J. Services Inc.—and the T, the companies are allowed to make adjustments to their staffing schedules and cleaning plans beginning in the second year of the contract, which starts September 1.

Janitors knew the terminations, which will result in a reduction of  around 90 out of 315 janitors, or 29 percent of the current workforce, were coming down the tracks, but they fought tirelessly in the form of public protests to try and reverse the decision.

Roxana Rivera, director of 32BJ SEIU District 615, said she was disappointed that layoffs have begun. “This is another example of an ill-conceived plan that will be extremely disruptive to the lives of scores of hardworking Bostonians and the riders who they serve,” she said.

Both the union and janitorial workers have claimed that the staff reduction will be detrimental to the stations, leading to riders boarding grimey trains and using unkempt public restrooms. They also said it will impact the health and wellness of the workers, who will be overburdened with an increased workload.

But the T says explicit conditions within the contracts state that both companies must maintain cleanliness on MBTA property even with the reduced staffing levels, otherwise the transit agency can “order them” to add additional employees at no additional cost.

The letter sent to one of the MBTA cleaners can be read in full below: