Nearly 300 agents at the State-contracted E-ZPass Customer Service Center in Staten Island are at risk of losing their jobs due to no fault of their own. MTA Bridges and Tunnels (MTABT) has issued a solicitation for these services, but the request for proposals (RFP) does not require the awardee to retain the current workforce, threatening the livelihoods of the current workforce. Nor does the RFP have requirements concerning labor standards.
For well over a decade, the call center workers now employed by Conduent have staffed the E-ZPass call center at the current location in Staten Island. The vast majority of the workers live on the island, and the vast majority are people of color. These jobs provide a very important opportunity for upward mobility and economic stability for these workers. Since 2012, the workers have been represented by Communications Workers of America (CWA) Local 1102, which has negotiated improved pay and benefits as well as a measure of job security and a grievance procedure, which ensures fair treatment on the job.
CWA and our allies are calling for the RFP process to be halted until there can be assurances that the contract awardee will retain the current workforce in their current localities and that all the jobs under the contract are good, family-supporting jobs. Similar provisions were included in the R-211 train contract authorized by the MTA, which resulted in Kawasaki creating 450 US-based manufacturing jobs.
Such worker retention policies are a best practice in service contracting. Nondisplacement requirements for government service contractors ensure continuity of a well-trained and experienced workforce, which can help ensure high service quality. It also prevents disruption to vulnerable frontline workers. This is why several states and cities have workforce retention requirements on certain publicly-funded service contracts, including New York City.
The threat of mass displacement of the current workforce is particularly troubling given the pandemic and record unemployment, which has hit Black and Hispanic workers particularly hard. The current deadline to submit proposals for this RFP is August 7th, and MTABT anticipates selecting a vendor by November 2020. It is imperative that action be taken immediately to remove the threat of termination for almost 300 workers in Staten Island due to no fault of their own.