Nashua custodians maintain jobs through summer as Labor Board processes claim

NASHUA – With 30 days left on their contract, Nashua union custodial workers are likely to stay with the district through the summer as an unfair labor complaint against the district is still being processed by the Public Employee Labor Relations Board.

Last fall, the Board of Education voted to explore hiring a private company to replace 101 union custodian positions, citing a need to achieve "substantial savings to the district’s operating budget."

In December 2015, the union representing Nashua’s custodians filed an unfair labor complaint with the Public Employee Labor Relations Board, claiming the district is bargaining with only a portion of the union since the district has agreed to negotiate a contract with members of Local 365, who are not custodians.

The school district denied that it "violated its bargaining obligations or any contractual provisions," according to a labor board memorandum.

With the complaint pending with the PELRB, this spring the school board worked on the 2017 education budget as if no changes would be made to the custodial staff.

"I believe our custodians should move forward with the assumption your current positions will remain in place as we end the school year and move into our summer cleaning routine. (Director of Plant Operations) Shawn Smith and his supervisory staff are making plans for summer cleaning assuming we have our current staff in place," said Superintendent Mark Conrad in a statement emailed to the school community this May.

"The future of privatizing custodial services is yet to be determined as the Board (of Education) and AFSCME engage in a legal process to determine whether or not the board can privatize services. This process is likely to take some time," Conrad said, "Should legal outcomes and board decisions move the district forward in privatizing services, it will also take time to negotiate a contract with a private service provider and put the new contract in place."

Conrad also praised the custodians for their patience. "I want to commend our custodians and AFSCME for the professional manner in which you have conducted yourselves through these months of uncertainty," he said, adding the district will provide written notice to each custodial employee if there is any change in their job status.

The current custodial contract will expire June 30.

Tina Forbes can be reached at 594-6402, tforbes@nashuatelegraph. com or @Telegraph_TinaF.