Penn decided last week to retake control of on-campus facilities from the Dallas-based corporation as part of a reqorked contract. Less than a week after the University announced it would once again manage its on-campus facilities, Penn employees said they were optimistic about the change in leadership. As part of a new, six-year contract unveiled last Thursday, Trammell Crow Co. will continue to manage Penn's for-profit real-estate arm, University City Associates, as well as its large scale construction projects. But the University will retake control of the day-to-day operations, housekeeping and maintenance of its on-campus facilities, scaling back its groundbreaking but controversial decision in 1998 to outsource nearly all operations. Trammell Crow has always been particularly unpopular with most workers who became employees of the Dallas-based real estate management firm in April 1998. And now, those maintenance and housekeeping workers say the University's agreement to restructure its outsourcing relationship did not happen soon enough. "I think [Penn management] will definitely be better because [Trammell Crow] was a disaster from the start," said one University worker, who has been a housekeeper for more than 20 years. "The system wasn't perfect before, but it was much better than when Trammell Crow took over." "It's a big change throughout the University," a veteran Penn maintenance worker added. "We're hoping it's going to work and trying to be positive." But Vice President for Facilities Omar Blaik said that the shift in management will not necessarily translate into noticeable -- or even immediate -- change. "Just because we are creating structures doesn't mean things are changing over," Blaik said, pointing out that the University management will retain the same organizational structure procedures and even the same Trammell Crow personnel. "This is a long-term effort." Under the new agreement, the 75 current Trammell Crow managers for on-campus facilities were told that the University would rehire them to do the same jobs, with comparable salaries and benefits. And Blaik said that, so far, more than 20 of those former Trammell Crow middle managers have signed on to come back in the same role as University employees. However, while the management personnel may be the same, University workers say that having Penn take responsibility for its own facilities might improve service. "Penn is going to be taking care of their own problems instead of having someone else take care of them," a veteran University maintenance worker explained. "Now there is going to be a little more of a push to get the job done." Many current workers complained that Trammell Crow tended to drag its feet when responding to service requests, bogging them down with bureaucratic red tape and delaying the start of projects because of a lack of supplies. In an interview last week, Executive Vice President John Fry said the new University management would concentrate on deploying staff more efficiently. He added that Penn might work out an arrangement with the unions to allow more University workers to cross-craft -- allowing a carpenter who also had knowledge of plumbing, for instance, to save time by performing multiple tasks at one site. But most of all, Penn employees said that eliminating Trammell Crow's extra layer of management would get rid of the confusion caused by too many organizations running one university. "It's so tripped up over here, I don't know who is running this place," one campus maintenance worker said.Comments powered by Disqus
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