Brendan W. Clark ’21
In a letter to the community Thursday afternoon, Vice President for Financial Affairs Dan Hitchell announced that the College’s two contracted vendor organizations, Chartwells and ABM, will be instituting furloughs for their employees because of the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.
Hitchell stressed that while these individuals are “not Trinity employees, they are members of our community, and we do not take lightly any decision affecting them.” He continued, adding that the decision was “part of the difficult work of stewarding the college through this unprecedented crisis.”
Trinity College employees, including faculty and staff, will continue to remain employed and on the College’s payroll. Berger-Sweeney committed to maintaining those staffing levels, “to the best of our ability…through June 30, 2020,” in her Apr. 15 announcement on the state of Trinity’s finances.
President of the Joanne Berger-Sweeney had previously indicated in her town hall in early April that while the College maintained full employment, Chartwells had “laid off several workers,” who still continued “to have health benefits through the summer.” Hitchell echoed these comments, adding that as Trinity moved to remote learning, Chartwells “scaled back its staffing levels accordingly,” which “amounted to laying off most of their managers and associates.”
The email from Hitchell stressed that as the college’s “chief financial officer, it is my responsibility to collaborate with my colleagues and contracted partners to assist in making many of these difficult decisions.”
At her April town hall, Berger-Sweeney announced that Chartwells had assured health benefits through June. In his Thursday email, Hitchell added that Chartwells has “extended health benefits for all affected employees through August, and the employees can return to work at Trinity when service levels are restored.” Hitchell added that those Chartwells employees are also entitled to state unemployment benefits and federal stimulus funding.
Hitchell also indicated that ABM, the College’s facilities and maintenance vendor, will “lay off half of the staff working on campus” as of May 1. The College’s full-time environmental health and safety officer, added Hitchell, will be moved to a “half-time contract.” ABM employees are subject to the same state and federal benefits and also have “extended healthcare benefits for at least 90 days.”
The decisions “were difficult,” Hitchell added, indicating that the providers have “tried to balance the impact on individuals, maintaining the levels of service needed…while addressing the need for cost savings amid this crisis.” The reductions will result in savings for Trinity “of nearly $1 million for the current fiscal year.” The Tripod previously reported on Berger-Sweeney’s announcement that the College would have a deficit of more than $7 million for the fiscal year.
Hitchell stressed that he does “not share this amount to trivialize the human impact of these decisions, but instead to underscore the reality of what we as the Trinity community are facing in the months ahead.”
Affected employees will be offered “opportunities to work at other ABM and Chartwells properties as they arise.” Hitchell added that while there is a “prudent and practical need” for these decisions, they were “not made lightly.” When the campus reopens for normal operations, Trinity will work to bring employees back, Hitchell’s email stated.