The University of Minnesota recently rolled out an overhauled custodian program, which consisted of leaner janitor ranks and a new team cleaning approach. According to reports from the Pioneer Press, university administrators expect the changes to save $3.1 million a year and result in a cleaner campus, but the union representing custodians questions both predictions. It's fighting the changes amid tense contract negotiations.

Mike Berthelsen, the associate vice president for facilities management, said the revamped program will be an adjustment - among many needed as the university faces more than $90 million in budget cuts over the next two years.

As part of the overhaul, the university invested $1.5 million in updated cleaning equipment and reduced its custodian work force by 52 employees - or more than 10 percent - through attrition and early retirement incentives. The university believes the leaner custodial team will keep up thanks to a team cleaning approach.

Before, each custodian was responsible for all tasks involved in maintaining an assigned area. Now, a team of custodians will each perform a specific task in cleaning a larger area. Officials say that approach will save time shifting gears and making trips to custodial closets for equipment.

Union officials say the change would take away a sense of connection and ownership custodians had in their assigned areas. There is also concern about repetitive motion injuries. It has filed a grievance about the changes, which union leaders argue should have been part of ongoing contract negotiations.

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