THE SAUGUS ADVOCATE – Friday, June 14, 2019 Page 25 ~ Letter to the Editor ~ On privatization of school custodians Saugus School Committee & Town Officials, It’s truly disappointing to hear that last night at an impact meeting between Saugus town officials and the Union representatives for the custodians, that you informed the custodians that you were moving forward with the privatization of their positions and that they would be terminated. That you would be replacing them with a company that pays their employees minimum wage, and that has no connection to the town of Saugus, and more importantly the teachers and students of the town. Not surprising unfortunately, but disappointing. Disappointing that you would choose to lie to the faces of long term town employees with families to support, and residents that overwhelmingly oppose this move. Disappointing that you would choose to negotiate in bad faith. Disappointing that you would block these employees, their families, and their supporters from being heard at a town meeting, and disappointing that you would decide to break protocol, not put this to a vote by the School Committee, and push this through under the cover of darkness. I know a lot of people on this email are probably confused. Wondering how the custodians and their families were notified they were being terminated when we were assured by Superintendent DeRuosi that this matter would be brought to a vote. Well, unfortunately, as is all too common in politics, especially politics in Saugus, they LIED. They lied throughout this entire process and they continue to lie. This has never been about privatization of the custodians and whether or not it was the best option for Saugus. Many believe it is not, but that was never at the heart of this issue. What this was about is just how poorly you have treated your own employees and their families. All that was being asked for was open and honest dialogue around this issue and you shut that down at every opportunity. You engaged in “contract negotiations” in bad faith, knowing that you were going to bring in an outside vendor the entire time. When your intentions got out and the custodians and their families attended a town meeting wanting to know what was going on and if their jobs were in jeopardy, they were not allowed to speak. They were told that this issue, the issue of how they were going to support their families, was not on the agenda and was a School Committee matter. When they took it to the School Committee they were told that if there were going to be any changes there would be a vote and everyone would have an opportunity to speak on it. In fact, two of your School Committee Members, Lisa Morgante and Liz Marchese, signed a petition to get this matter on the agenda for the June 20 School Committee meeting. They assured me that they wanted this matter to be discussed openly and for everyone to be heard, but at the end of the day the agenda was set by Chairperson Meredith and there wasn’t much they could do about it. And now here we are. Not only did this matter never make it to the agenda for open discussion, the town pushed through this approval without ever bringing it to a vote. I’m sure many are wondering why the town would choose to operate in this manner, why they would treat long time employees like they didn’t matter, and the truth is because they don’t care about their employees and they don’t care about the residents of Saugus. If they did they would have encouraged open dialogue, listened to the concerns of their employees and residents, and pushed for a transparent process. Instead they lied, lied some more, and then decided to push this privatization through after holding backroom meetings that the public was not privy to. This entire process was a complete and utter disgrace, but there is plenty of blame to share outside of just School Committee members DeRuosi, Meredith, Marchese, Gaieski, Morgante, and Magliozzi. Where was the Town Manager and the Board of Selectmen when people were asking for transparency and open dialogue? The problem with the Saugus town government has always been that they lack vision, and the reason for this is that they lack true leadership. I hope that come November the people of Saugus will vote for change. That they will vote for true leaders that value town employees, encourage open dialogue, and that put the best interests of its residents above their own personal interests. What’s apparent right now is that a leader like that doesn’t currently exist in Saugus. Christian Moore A 10-day strike notice N ursing home workers with 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East at Saugus Care and Rehabilitation Center announced this week they will strike for two days – on June 20 and 21 – over wages, ownership policies and mismanagement allegedly harming patients and employees. They have submitted their 10-day notification to strike. “Massachusetts’ nursing home industry is facing a crisis in large part because of out-ofstate owners, like Eli Mirlis from Saugus, who care very little for residents, employees and the communities they are supposed to serve,” said 1199SEIU Executive Vice President Tim Foley. “While a strike is a last resort, management has left us little choice by ignoring our proposals that will ensure quality care.” Saugus Care and Rehabilitation Center is an 80-bed nursing home that employs about 70 1199SEIU workers, including a large majority of employees who are of Haitian and African descent. In January, the ownership proposed making workers’ 30-minute meal break unpaid, which would equal a 6.25 percent wage cut, and canceled the last bargaining session without rescheduling. The previous contract with 1199SEIU members expired on October 31, 2018, and employees are currently working without a contract. “Pushing for wage cuts of caregivers is an unacceptable way to run a nursing home facility because it harms patient care,” said Certified Nursing Assistant Eddy Pierre of Saugus Care and Rehabilitation Center. “We are proud of the work we do, and have made every effort to come to an agreement. Unfortunately, management is unwilling to invest in this facility to provide the type of jobs that are so important to local families and this community.” Saugus Care and Rehabilitation Center was purchased from Genesis in April 2018 by Eli Mirlis, who is the CEO of Regal Care Management Group, which is headquartered in Waterbury, Conn. Mirlis owns two other nursing homes in Massachusetts: in Amesbury and Danvers. Late last month healthcare workers at Saugus Care and Rehabilitation Center and Blue Hills Health and Rehabilitation Center in Stoughton voted to authorize a strike. While Saugus workers have issued their 10-day notice, caregivers at Blue Hills have reached a contract extension through July 31. “Unfortunately, Massachusetts has experienced a rash of recent nursing home closures and mismanagement,” said Foley. “The healthcare workers of 1199SEIU are committed to continuing our work to support all nursing home workers by fighting for quality jobs and nursing home care and to work with state leaders to create the additional oversight and funding needed to ensure quality and reliable care.”

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