Labor Issues
September 20, 2013

Fact Sheet 13-11: Custodial and Maintenance Staffing Issues

Source: NYSUT Research and Educational Services


Custodial and maintenance professionals help keep our New York schools clean and safe for students, staff and community.

Along with heavy cleaning and groundskeeping, these workers per-form many other duties to keep schools running smoothly and maintain a safe and healthy environment. These include ensuring uniform temperatures and proper ventilation, snow clearing, electrical and plumbing repairs, painting, boiler maintenance, emergency clean ups, room set up and take down and moving heavy equipment. One of their most important responsibilities is to ensure proper indoor air quality.

Table of Contents

Download complete fact sheet. (388k PDF)

  • Introduction
  • Custodial/Maintenance Staffing Issues
  • Finding Solutions
  • Bargaining in the Public Sector
  • Public Sector Employees and Civil Service
  • Professional Development
  • Other Strategies
  • Examples from Other States of Custodial & Maintenance Staffing Guidelines
  • Resources 

Custodial/Maintenance Staffing Issues

Over the years, custodial/maintenance staff have faced several problems that have led to doing more with less:

Downsizing: shrinking school budgets and academic pressures have resulted in layoffs and shrinking building maintenance budgets.

Building additions, without staff additions: many schools have added new wings/classrooms, creating thousands of square feet of additional building space without adding staff.

Years of deferred maintenance: many districts have not kept up with needed structural and system maintenance in large part because the state reimbursement process only gives significant monies for replacement of systems or buildings, not for minor maintenance. Additionally, communities are not approving large capital projects as they did in the past and now there is tremendous need to fix what’s broken without the staff to do it.

Reductions of trades titles: Over the last two decades, districts have eliminated trades titles like plumbers, masons and electricians. Remaining in-house custodial and general maintenance workers may not be able to do as much as those with specific qualifications/licenses.

As school districts seek to cut expenses and staffing, custodial workloads increase to the detriment of the schools. Cleaning cannot be done as thoroughly with fewer workers. It also poses a safety risk to the workers as they try to keep the same level of cleanliness with fewer workers. Short staffing can result in taking shortcuts on safety precautions because of the pressure to get the job done. Custodians already face significant job hazards like musculoskeletal injuries from heavy lifting, mopping, wiping surfaces, scrubbing and chemical exposures from cleaning and maintenance products.

Download complete fact sheet. (388k PDF)