The Collegian
Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Job outsourcing upsets print, postal employees

The University of Richmond's postal and printing services will be outsourced and under the operation of Ricoh Professional Services beginning Nov. 26.

Employees of both the print shop and post office were told on Oct. 15 that as of the November start date, they would no longer work for the university, as their jobs will be transitioned to Ricoh.

According to Louie Love, director of Administrative Services, who serves as a manager of both the print shop and post office, the university decided to review its printing and photocopying services during 2006.

Carl Sorensen, associate vice president of human resources, said the review originally focused only on the university's printing services, which were spread across multiple off-campus vendors that cost the school almost $2 million per year.

Love said administrators contacted seven vendors for estimates for providing expanded printing services. All but one vendor said the university should wholly consolidate its printing services, and the three vendors who submitted proposals in May recommended the option of outsourcing, he said.

Love added that Ricoh's five-year contract was the best offer Richmond received. It included the postal services because of the company's expertise in that area of operation.

Nine employees have been affected by the transition to Ricoh, and some said they were given no warning that this decision was coming. The employees originally had very negative reactions to the decision because they had many questions that went unanswered, Sorensen said.

He added that he spoke with each employee and once the concerns and questions had been addressed, they seemed "a little less negative" toward the decision.

But two of the nine employees who were eligible for retirement opted to retire from the university and not continue with Ricoh, and a third employee retired from the university, but accepted the position with Ricoh. Jodi Will, mail operations manager, said the employees at the post office were shocked by the announcement.

"It was a really big surprise," Will said. "We felt like we were sold out by the university."

She added that the employees had not been told anything before the announcement.

Karen Pierce, assistant manager of the print shop, said she was surprised because after 24 years at Richmond she would no longer be working for, nor able to retire from, the university.

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"The idea of retiring from another company is what hurts the most," she said. "I never thought they would outsource us."

She said she hoped that after the contract with Ricoh expired, the university would bring the print shop back under the school's operation. Pierce added that part of the problem was the lack of communication between the university and the employees because the school did not initially give adequate information about the decision to outsource.

"We had a lot of questions and concerns, and we kept asking and asking, and eventually we got them answered," Pierce said.

Will said she thought the human resource department had dealt with the situation as best they could and were eventually able to answer their questions.

Sorensen said human resources worked with Ricoh to develop the same or higher salaries and comparable benefit plans to what the employees received from the university. This included the tuition remission for children of employees who attend Richmond, as long as the employees continue to work for Ricoh.

Sorensen said he was aware that concerns had been articulated between faculty and staff, but he said he thought the school has made it a good transition for these employees.

"I think people have their own opinions and feel that these employees have been put out on the streets, which isn't what happened, Sorensen said. "The way to make sure these employees remain a part of campus is to keep them a part of the community, regardless of the fact that they now work for Ricoh."

According to Love, the employees will have more professional growth opportunities by working for Ricoh because the small size of the print shop and post office limited professional development.

The university will benefit from its partnership with Ricoh, as the printing and postal services will be streamlined and expanded. Love said Ricoh would determine what kind of copying and printing needs Richmond has in order to effectively and efficiently consolidate these services. The print shop will also pick up and deliver to departments on-campus, and printing and copying will be done at a lesser cost to each department. The post office will offer extended hours, including hours on Saturdays, and an electronic package tracking system will eventually be installed, Love said.

Pierce said the print shop employees were trying to remain optimistic and look at the situation positively. She said she hoped to see some good come from the changes.

Will said now that the initial shock had worn off, post office employees have been ready to start moving forward.

"We're ready to roll on. All of the shock is behind us," she said. "We got all our questions answered, and now it's time to move on."

In an e-mail sent to faculty and staff, President Edward Ayers acknowledged the concerns that had been raised about the contract with Ricoh. It said he regretted that the university did not achieve the level of collaboration he had hoped for, and he was committed to creating more inclusive processes in the future.

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