When the “out-sourcing” efforts began many years ago, I was working for a major manufacturing company that wanted to cut costs. They saved money by buying parts from other manufacturers instead of designing them in house. So they looked at other departments to outsource, such as building maintenance, thus saving benefits, retirement, and the high salaries of twenty year employees. The function wasn’t necessary for the manufacture of our money-making products, i.e. bottom line, so it was expendable, management decided. The department was laid off.
The maintenance contract spelled out everything thought to be “essential.” It didn’t take more than a month to realize the good ole boys in maintenance did much more than anyone realized. But now when we asked for anything not specifically spelled out in the contract, it couldn’t be done without contract changes and extra costs. It took weeks to get approvals, while equipment deteriorated, and people swore. Because the new workers didn’t have the skills to maintain cranky equipment our employees had nursed along for years, our equipment replacement costs increased.
Their employees certainly didn’t do anything extra. If a chore wasn’t done by quitting time, it didn’t get finished. The contractor didn’t pay overtime, and their employees had no loyalty or emotional involvement to our company.
The out-sourcing required a contract manager and methods to monitor the contractor. It required legal department oversight of all the contract changes for the proper wording, and procedures for bringing them back into compliance when they mismanaged the job. It was no longer the reprimand of one employee on the spot by one of our managers. It was a whole new chain of command with many levels who might not see the misbehavior in the same way we did.
The money saving we hoped for didn’t occur and it cost us more. Our contractor was not dealing with the public on our behalf so that liability was not there, but frustration was.
It seems to me that contracting something that interfaces with the public, like the library, opens the city up to a whole new set of problems, costs, liability, and loss of donations. Because library workers may be the only interface with the city for much of our community, they are ambassadors to our public. Do we really want that to change? I question whether it will really be a cost savings at all. Some things just need to stay “in house”. We discovered the only cost savings came when the contractor was product oriented, not service oriented.
BARBARA SAAD, Escondido