San Diego County government officials will review a contract for janitorial services workers in the Administration Center, Waterfront Park and Cedar Kettner parking structure, a spokesman for Supervisor Nora Vargas said Wednesday.
Supervisors on Tuesday voted 4-1 to review the current janitorial, landscaping and security contract.
According to Vargas’ office, the county Department of Purchasing and Contracting will move forward with a request for proposals under a new contracting policy.
On Jan. 23, janitors engaged in a work stoppage against Nova Commercial Company, claiming a worker was wrongfully discharged, according to Vargas’ office.
“Now, the county will explore opportunities for terminating, amending or enhancing the current contract in place,” said Vargas, Board of Supervisors chair.
Vargas recommended a contract review after Nova “wrongfully discharged an employee in retaliation for speaking against the company for unsafe practices,” according to a statement from her office.
According to Vargas’ office, Nova may submit a proposal but the Administrative Center will be removed from the existing contract, and a new contract will cover those services.
Vargas said she joined workers during a recent rally, and they agreed to a cool-down period so the county could intervene.
“Our county and I are committed to creating a safe and healthy environment for all our workers and we expect our contractors to do the same,” Vargas said. “They have sacrificed a lot over the last few years, and we need to ensure they have safe working conditions and are treated with the dignity and respect they deserve.”
Janitors during a Tuesday public hearing told county supervisors about what they called mistreatment and unfair working conditions.
One woman said what she earns is not enough and she has no insurance. The woman added that she had to take a second job, which led to her becoming disabled.
Christian Ramirez, an official with SEIU United Service Workers West, described the janitors’ speaking out as historic.
He said female janitors were forced to endure “heinous conditions,” but were able to get the attention of government leaders.
The janitors are trying to join the SEIU-United Service Workers West union, KPBS reported.
Dozens of others, many of them union activists, voiced their support for the workers.
“These are real lives that you’re going to change,” said Brigette Browning, of the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council.
Browning mentioned a recent encounter with a janitor who was very pleased about an improved contract.
An official with Nova told supervisors that her company has made revisions regarding a contract proposal, but have not heard back from the union.
Supervisor Jim Desmond cast the lone “no” vote on Vargas’ proposal. He explained that while no employee should be exploited, long-term costs were a concern.
Desmond said revising other labor contracts could cost up to $13.5 million, and he has residents asking for road improvements and parks.
The county has other pressing needs, such as improving its mental health care system, Desmond said, adding that contract changes may affect small businesses.
City News Service contributed to this article.