Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Your comments about today's ABM announcement

A Gannett Blog reader asked me to create this comment thread exclusively for today's announcement that Corporate is outsourcing scores of maintenance jobs to ABM Facility Services. Following is the text of a memo to employees in Louisville, Ky.

Gannett launches Facilities Maintenance and Operations outsourcing effort

Starting May 22, 2012, Gannett is launching Phase 1 of its facilities maintenance outsourcing initiative. Louisville has been selected for Phase 1 of this effort.

The company is consolidating facilities maintenance and some in-house facilities operations at 34 U.S. Community Publishing, Gannett Publishing Services sites, TV stations, and at corporate headquarters through a partnership with ABM Facility Services, Inc. ABM is one of the country’s largest facility services contractors, with more than 265 offices across the U.S., including offices in the majority of Gannett markets.

Services to be provided through this facility management contract with ABM include: general maintenance; trash removal; electrician services; generator maintenance; power storage and distribution maintenance; fire alarm system maintenance; sprinkler system maintenance; HVAC; plumbing; security; janitorial; and landscaping.

All affected members of Gannett facility support staff will have the opportunity to apply for employment with ABM Facility Services, Inc., pending fulfillment of ABM’s conditions of employment and staffing requirements. Employees who choose to not apply for a position with ABM, or do not otherwise transition employment with ABM, are eligible for separation benefits. Depending on staffing needs, affected members of Gannett facility support staff hired by ABM may continue supporting Gannett operations or may be assigned to other ABM accounts.

Through this partnership, Gannett is taking advantage of its size and scale to maximize cost savings. The company will save money by getting better pricing on supplies, services and other purchases through ABM’s extensive network of national vendor contracts and ABM’s leveraged purchasing capability.

Phase 2 sites are being identified and will transition following implementation of the first rollout.

Please post for employees that don’t have access to company email.


  1. I love the use of the friendly-sounding word "partnership."

  2. On another thread, Anonymous@9:45 wrote: "I will ask again, why is the ABM outsource a bad deal? Everyone says they hate Gannett and want out. Now they get that opportunity and get to work for the largest facilities company in the country. What is the beef?"

    Here's my response:

    9:45 You imply that working for ABM would be better simply because it's the largest of its kind. Why would that be?

    Some of the unhappiness here is no doubt because of uncertainty: There's no guarantee that Gannett employees will all be employed by ABM.

    What's more, there's nothing in today's memo that says anything about how ABM's benefits -- including retirement, medical and vacation time -- compare with Gannett's. Maybe they're better. And maybe not.

  3. ABM ain't all roses and sunshine:
    and this:


    ...and there have been lawsuits against ABM and its subsidiaries over alleged unpaid overtime.

  4. Every Effected person received that information and no one complained. So other than ABM might not hire you, which is a legit, worry, why is it a bad thing. You Jim and your fans knock Gannett no matter what they do. Now they have an opportunity to work for a different company. You can't slam Gannett day in and day out and then say, well they do suck but ABM probably sucks more. Your readers call Gannett evil and heartless and now that some have a chance to escape its "not so fast." I do t understand.

  5. Who would have guessed readers would castigate ABM. Every company in the USA had these kinds of claims. As long as there are sleazy lawyers there will be these kind of claims. Doesn't mean a thing.

  6. Will this in any way affect the outstanding and award winning group of professionals in the facility maintenance dept. at the Florida Today?

  7. 10:31 writes: "No one complained."

    Really? No one? Not a single person complained?

    Also, Gannett employees have been lobbying for better working conditions within the company.

    They haven't, as you suggest, been asking for a chance to escape -- to a potentially even worse employer.

  8. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  9. You are kidding right Jim. I think you better read your own blog. Your readers constantly beg to be laid off or boast they will leave as soon as they can. Well here is their opportunity. Now you're going to say its a bad deal? Really. You've already decided ABM is a bad company? Nice job

  10. Here's an edited version of 11:22's comment:

    Unfortunately, this will now reduce the number of Hispanic and African American people working at Gannett.

  11. 11:26 I didn't say ABM is a bad company. I did said it had the potential to be one, however.

    And I said of ABM's employee benefits: Maybe they're better. And maybe not.

    In other words, I don't have enough evidence yet to make a firm declaration.

    Why are you so certain ABM will be a better deal for Gannett employees?

  12. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  13. Because I was in the room and heard their presentation. Benefits are compatible. The question will be pay. But based on comments here everyone pays better than Gannett,

  14. "Why are you so certain ABM will be a better deal for Gannett employees?"

    Because they're moving from a dying industry where their skills are incidental, to a growing one where their skills are central.

  15. Awesome logic, 8:56.

    So if Gannett dies, and all the papers are sold or closed, won't all those people hired by ABM be let go because Gannett is dead, along with contract for all their buildings?

  16. I have to speculate that any years of service to GCI will not transfer along with the employees. Hence, I'd assume benefits, such a vacation time, would revert back as if they were newly employed by ABM?

  17. "Depending on staffing needs ..."

    I imagine where two people cleaned the building, now there will be one, and so on. At least the toilet paper can't get any lower in quality.

  18. Seems very likely; after all, they will all be new ABM employees.

    It would be different if ABM were buying Gannett because it would usually assume the company's obligations, etc.

    That's how it works in Gannett. For example, historically when Gannett bought newspapers, those papers' employees would retain their service years once they became Gannett employees.

  19. Concerns over Gannett’s outsourcing to ABM are easy to understand, starting with its stated goal to “maximize cost savings.”

    From employees’ perspective, they know those savings usually come at their expense and anyone who thinks and or argues differently here is either naïve or a shill. From an operating units’ perspective, claims that ABM’s larger scale allows it to leverage its purchasing power all while delivering better services will have to be seen before its believed as evidenced by a number of Gannett acquisitions that were promised the same on paper only to learn quite the opposite operationally. No doubt, some units will likely see the same, if not over time.

    Focusing specifically on affected employees’ jobs, the concerns of many are more than valid as people will be losing their jobs, have their pay and benefits likely cut and/or roles notably changed. The comments by some that it is no big deal only reinforces the belief of a plurality that Gannett cares little about its employees. And sure, some in that affected lot may want out, but moving to ABM only to return to the same location every day, for likely less compensation, is hardly anyone’s “chance to escape”, in fact, it would be understandably worse.

  20. When an industry has lost more than half its revenue base, it is absurd to say that any savings, large or small, comes at the "expense" of employees.

  21. What’s absurd is what you attempt 10:32 AM as furloughs, pay freezes and outright terminations due to declining revenues and profits has indeed cost employees too.

    Furthermore, if the usage of the word expense tweaked you, then you’ll love this:

    A strong argument could also be waged to support how top management’s missteps (slow to move, retention of ineffective leaders, staff, etc.) directly exacerbated Gannett’s problems, ultimately resulting in employees paying a higher price than what would have been expected to result from the economic and disruptional forces that were beyond operational Gannett’s control. A price Gannett’s top management really has yet to pay.

    (One trusts you understand that expense, cost and price mean the same here, else please use a thesaurus for clarity).

  22. I admit that I don't know what ABM's salary and benefits packages are. But logically they have to be less, possibly a lot less, than Gannett's.

    Gannett and other businesses would not outsource these services if they didn't save money. For the sake of simplification, let's say Gannett spends $1,000,000 maintaining their properties (I realize it's probably a lot more than this), ABM comes in and says we can do that for you for $900,000 and Gannett saves $100,000. Fine.

    How does ABM provide that service for less than Gannett would have spent and still make a profit for itself? There might be some savings in scale for buying toilet paper and paper towels. Since the largest expense is salaries and benefits of the workers, it's unlikely that ABM can make up all of the difference in bulk purchases of toilet paper and cleaning supplies. It has to be in salaries, benefits and smaller staffing.

    It would be nice if a representative from ABM came in here and outlined what their compensation package is, but I am not going to hold my breath waiting for that.

  23. My guess is that ABM will offer less pay and benefits (if at all on this one), and not retain everyone, only a few once they learn they'll be making minimum wage and "qualify" only as part time. If it were going to be status quo, what would be the point?

  24. 11:42 I would imagine many they hire will tend to be younger and with better medical histories.

  25. I'd like to think positively on this move, but it's Gannett, and when has anything Gannett consolidated been a good move for the workers? For the company maybe, in saving money, but quality has been sacrified in all of the consolidations I've been through. Ads, obits, hubs, all of those changes have impacted the workers in a negative way. And the product.

  26. Reviews of ABM from employees at Glassdoor.com...

    Comments range from "The freedom to learn new professional skils..." to "They suck the life out of you."

    Sound familiar?

  27. do you think they will outsource artists? how about other departments?

  28. My heart goes out to the staff affected by this. While there are opportunities to move over to ABM, the amount of positions offered don't come close to the positions lost by many of the hardworking staff members. I wish them all best of luck in finding new opportunities.

  29. Re: 12:54 PM

    Yes. I think it's inevitable that artists will be outsourced.

    They outsourced prepress to the RTC.

    They outsourced page design to the Design Center.

    They are outsourcing photography to US Presswire.

    They outsourced building maintenance and security to ABM.

    Corporate defenders might say that RTC and Design Center employees still work for Gannett and those jobs aren't technically outsourced. They would be kidding themselves.

    The local jobs have been lost to lower paid people in Des Moines or Nashville or where ever.

    The decision to send US Presswire photographers to the Olympics instead of USAT photographers is even more troubling because the Presswire photographers aren't employees. They're freelance self employed contractors. Gannett doesn't contribute to their retirement, doesn't provide them with health care and doesn't provide them with photo equipment.

    If the Olympics experiment works, I would expect to see US Presswire taking over for USAT and Gannett papers at other professional and Division 1 sports events. Once USAT and the papers stop staffing those events Gannett could lay off the photographers that otherwise cover sports.

    I expect that regardless of the real outcome of the Olympics arrangement, Gannett will consider it a success. That's what history has shown us. By any rational measure RTC and Design Center / NewsGate have been a failure. Quality is down, service is down and deadlines are blown. But it's saving money. That's all that matters.

    If you're in Reno and your photos are toned in Des Moines and pages designed in Phoenix you might just as well have those services done in Manila or Bangalore. Both places have thousands of people with the technical skills and a very low wage base.

    It's only logical to assume that they're plan to shed employees and "streamline" the operation includes outsourcing artists. How many ad agencies are there in your town? How many of them have staff artists? How many rely on freelance artists? There might be some initial organizational issues for Gannett to wrestle with, but long term there's nothing to stop them from laying off the artists (that they have left) and farming that work out to freelancers.

    The last group to be outsourced will be reporters. There are too many of reporters to outsource at once. There's a romantic attachment to reporters that they don't share for photographers, artists and page designers (how many times have you heard reporters referred to as journalists, you seldom hear artists, page designers or photographers described that way). But once they figure it out for photographers and artists they'll start working on outsourcing reporters. It's inevitable.

  30. thanks 12:54. i must be extremely naive! i had no idea how much gannett had already outsourced... lancaster, pa has some small agencies, but nothing that could handle the volume clipper magazine (we're a coupon magazine. we don't report any news.) does until you go further towards philly and so on. gannett has really been chipping away at us lately. it's extremely nerve wracking. as of late, the rumor is that this fall we will be losing 140 people (that's over half our inside staff... no word on whether it's exclusively inside staff or if that includes outside sales force) and then the remainder will be consolidated and moved to gannett's VA office. has anyone heard anything about this?

  31. Facility management outsourcing firms deliver savings to customer by offering less generous wages (except in areas with significant collective bargaining strength for custodians, building engineers, electricians etc.); by using fewer people; by offering lower benefits packages and by systematically weeding out higher paid staff (either because they lack the supervisory and budget management skills to generate profits or because their salaries are too far above market). Cost savings are often shared with the client company, but rest assured, unless Gannett has written an agreement that directs some of the shared savings as bonuses to on site staff, the shared savings will go straight to ABM suits. Some staff will make the transition very well and for those in mid-career who are located in metro areas, it can indeed provide career mobility they would never have had at GCI. For those who have not kept licenses, certifications and training current, it will be very tough. People doing non-core functions for Gannett should assume they could someday be outsourced and should behave accordingly by making sure their licenses, certifications and continuing education are fully up to date. This includes accounts payable/receivable; purchasing; IT-desktop services etc.

  32. 1:35 I know it may be out of your area but Gannett has outsourced all of it's Single Copy Circulation too. Hardly a word about it on this blog. Guess a thousand or so drivers doesn't compare to a few hundred service workers.

  33. Re: 1.35

    They matter as much as custodial staff do. I think the custodial thing has caught fire because of the very public way in which it was done. As far as I know most the drivers were outsourced to independent contractors and not an outsourcing company like ABM.

    I am sorry to hear about the drivers. It's a perfect example of how Gannet plans to outsource as many positions as possible.

  34. Moving maintenance service to ABM probably makes good business sense, and will save Gannett a lot of money right off the bat, but service to the customer (us) will suffer.
    I am curious as to how they will staff the facilities, if at all, and how we will interact with them. Based on experience there will be a day time ext. to call and outside business hours it will be a toll free number.
    I am very skeptical about this entire announcement and don't have high hopes for a satisfactory outcome. Past experience dictates, that Gannett don't make drastic changes for the benefits of the employees, and every move (retirement packages changed twice, health insurance, GPS and so on...) has been done on the back of the workers who supposedly benefited from these changes.
    If I have to make a qualified guess of the retention of current maintenance workers, I believe somewhere 50-60% is in the ballpark, and at a substantial lower wage. ABM's track record of how it treats its workers isn't stellar, but at least those offered a position with them will already be used to that.

    With all the above in mind, I do think, that the move to a contractor may not be a bad idea for Gannett, but as far as the people involved and the service level, I remain skeptical.

  35. They will be missed at Florida Today. They were fun to watch.

  36. After living through the constant threat of layoffs,no raises for three years, and the lovable furlough (always ready to be extended for another week when Gannett needed an extra $25 mil) for 8 years, I don't see how ABM can't be anything but a step up.What remains to be seen is the pay and benefits package that they offer,which will come out once the process goes forward-we can always opt out. I detest Gannett corporate for all they do to treat their employees as disposable chattel while stripping every penny they can from the coffer to line their pockets.That being said,how much worse could ABM be.Maybe we can now carry on our lives w/o the specter of imposed financial hardships brought on by Gannett I hope that all my coworkers who decided to retire enjoy their future.Just my $ .02

  37. Better start locking your desk or taking your valuables home. At least with people hired by the local company, you knew who's in the building and there was a degree of trust.

  38. this is a simple as 2+2=1. Gannett will save money, ABM will made money. so how do you do that? not on saving on supplies. (isn't that what Gannett Supply is suppose to do with national purchases??). the bottom line is gannett saves, ABM profits, by lower wages and fewer people ! duh !! Get ready, i give the buildings 6 months to look worst than they do now and start falling apart ! what's next ! selling off GPS just wait and see !

  39. ABM well just try to save cost by using smaller staffs, and giving them fewer hours. Expect more problems getting the paper out as the cost cutting and out sourcing continues.

  40. Gannett Supply is a joke.
    Being an IT guy, who occasionally purchase equipment via our Corporate Staples account, I see the "special" pricing we get. As an example look up the price on a specific printer, then check the consume site and compare the two. In most cases the consumer price is the lowest, and that doesn't account for any weekly specials or rebates, which cannot be applied to any purchases made on the corporate account.
    There are only a few options as why that is. Either we get a 45+ day net on every purchase (unlikely since the P-card has to be used) or someone in Gannett Supply has stock or part ownership in Staples.
    Our corporate accounts with Office Depot, Home Depot and others have been suspended by the vendor due to non or late payment on the accounts.
    What a tight ship we are running...

  41. Aa a retired ABM employee of 24yrs I will convey the following.Abm does have great benefits.A few years ago they reduced the huge work staff we had at a major airport to a skeleton crew.You do the work of two with little time for breaks.You decide between a break and getting your work done.You watch others not doing their work and getting away with it.You are in for some tough working conditions.

  42. LIES or just the usual "poor communication"?

    When ABM started showing up at various facilities to check things out the word was, ABM will rehire all staff and things will remain as they are until we can better evaluate work force needs. I suspected this was far from the truth and it's now confirmed. The question remains, was this a lie or is upper management so out of touch with each other that a simple transitional like this unmanageable?

    Perhaps we should consider outsourcing upper management in McLean? I'm sure there are GREAT savings to be had there!!!

    BTW, those individuals that are moving on to ABM or taking transitional pay (Gannett Guilt Pill) are still having to take a week of furlough regardless. Bad form Gannett!

  43. Well, the offer letters went out to the facilities guys at corporate and most of them were offered about $10k less per year. And about a half dozen dedicated people weren't offered anything so they'll be collecting unemployment on July 15. Sad, after 10+ years ... I hope the place falls apart and all the guys who are taking the ABM offers for the sake of having jobs find NEW jobs with other companies and leave Gannett/ABM in the dust. Let the place fall apart so the execs can have even larger bonuses.

  44. This is one of very few blogs that was worth the read, a great insight. My friend will be so exciting to check out that.

    Facility Maintenance Management | Asset Management Software | CMMS

  45. abm sucks work there and in the end I threw, pay horrible, and supervisors are crap


Jim says: "Proceed with caution; this is a free-for-all comment zone. I try to correct or clarify incorrect information. But I can't catch everything. Please keep your posts focused on Gannett and media-related subjects. Note that I occasionally review comments in advance, to reject inappropriate ones. And I ignore hostile posters, and recommend you do, too."

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