Durham considers covering for contractor who failed to pay custodians

Posted January 8, 2015
Updated January 9, 2015

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— Durham school board members are considering a proposal by Superintendent Bert L’Homme to pay $200,000 owed in back pay to sub-contracted custodial workers whose actual employer filed for bankruptcy. 

Durham paid for a contractor for the work, but the money never trickled down to employees after that contractor went out of business.

The workers were not paid for two weeks in late October and early November, L’Homme said.

He proposed that the school district pay the custodians the money that Integrity Custodial Services owes them, then stand in for them in bankruptcy court to recoup as much of that money as possible from the company.

“These are services for which we have already paid, and it was Integrity’s duty to compensate its employees,” L'Homme said. “These men and women are part of our school families. I think we can help them in the short term and stand on their behalf during the long bankruptcy court proceedings.”

“Although these people are not employees of Durham Public Schools, they are part of our school families,” he said during a board committee meeting Thursday. “They work closely with our principals, teachers and staff. In many cases they have positive, even mentoring relationships with our students.”

Board members will vote on L’Homme’s proposal during their Jan. 22 regular board meeting.

Integrity Facilities Management, Inc., a sub-contractor for SSC Service Solutions, employed more than 140 custodial workers to clean 16 DPS facilities, including Jordan High School, Hillside High School and Hope Valley Elementary. Integrity filed for bankruptcy in June, but workers said they learned about it after they noticed payroll discrepancies in October. On Nov. 20, the workers learned they would not be paid for work done between Oct. 16 and Nov. 5, and that they would be laid off.

“We work hard and are professional in our work,” Denise Wiggins, a custodial worker at Hillside New Tech High School for four years, said in a statement. “We keep these schools safe and clean for the children of Durham and have won multiple awards. We ask Superintendent Dr. L’Homme, ‘What did you have on your dinner table this Thanksgiving?’ Because we were sent home with nothing. No paycheck to feed our family or pay our bills. DPS benefited from our labor. They should step up and make this right.”

Most of the workers were hired by a new company but say their benefits and hours have been cut.

“If Integrity can’t pay us, we will keep fighting. This is just the beginning,” Fletcher Norwood, a custodial worker at Pearsontown Magnet Elementary School, said in a statement. “We need to be respected as professionals and Durham Public Schools has received the benefit of our work. Where is the accountability?”

A message left at Integrity’s Durham office was not immediately returned.

The workers planned to protest outside Durham Public Schools' administrative offices Friday morning.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • ytb781pearl Jan 9, 2015

    Custodians should be employees of the school system.

  • poohpiglet69 Jan 9, 2015

    View quoted thread


  • 68_dodge_polara Jan 9, 2015

    View quoted thread

    Not all conservatives not all the time, for most conservatives we favor it only if it makes sense which in this case it does not.

  • Ginger Lynn Jan 9, 2015
    user avatar

    Integrity haha

  • Theo Bishop Jan 9, 2015
    user avatar

    SSC services contracted them so they should be the ones to take care if this and not the school system. This why we should have regular custodian back. This would not have been a problem today and the money could go to school use for the kids of (DPS).

  • KnowsItAll Jan 9, 2015

    Durham officials might want to take a close look at this company - ironically named "Integrity" to see how they even got these contracts in the first place. Was it competitive bidding or were they awarded the contract for other reasons? I can't say for sure, but knowing that the city has a policy favoring minority contractors, I have a hunch.

    Contracts should be awarded to companies based on performance, not because of who they know, or the race of the company's owners.

  • KnowsItAll Jan 9, 2015

    View quoted thread

    thank you! my thoughts EXACTLY! as usual, the taxpayer is on the hook.

  • ligonmaterial23 Jan 9, 2015

    I started to feel bad till I read their attitudes on the matter THEN they are going to protest the people who are trying to help them but have ZERO duty to do so.

  • Theo Bishop Jan 9, 2015
    user avatar

    If the school system would go back to to custodians in stead of contractors it is a way to employee and be cost effective in the way it is done. There is a plan that can be put on the table and it is a good one also. they need to talk to their regular employees to find out what this plan is.

  • Jack Harris Jan 9, 2015
    user avatar

    Will it be Legal for the School Board to use taxpayers money for this??. Will it make them liable for the unemployment benny,insurence?. How much is it going to exceed the contract??. Maybe there should be a clause in all future contract's that company's have to show a finance statement every 90 days to insure they stable to fulfill the contract!.