The University’s switch from Canon to Xerox Corporation as its provider for mail services, the Copy Center and student print solutions accrued backlash from the Brandeis community after longtime employees were terminated from Canon this spring and not automatically rehired by Xerox. 

Some employees that Xerox offered to rehire after the turnover also came forward to the University, the Brandeis community and the Justice to express concerns about the low wages that the new provider was offering, despite their years of service at the University, which ranges up to over 30 years for some.

Director of Strategic Procurement John Storti first announced in an April 24 email to the Brandeis community that the turnover from Canon to Xerox for mail and copy services would occur on June 1. According to the email, the transition in providers will also bring about the digitalization of the package alert system and the replacement of old equipment in the Copy Center. However, unlike previous turnovers at the University, such as its change in dining service providers from Aramark to Sodexo last year and others in the mailroom and Copy Center that former Copy Center manager Barry Hayes recalled for the Justice, the transition process was interrupted. 

Hayes described the situation and the reason behind the University’s lack of a Copy Center for several weeks over the summer. “Xerox…supposedly [took] over the Copy Center on Monday, [June 2]…and when I left that space on Tuesday, [May 27], it was an unusable space. They would have to take out the equipment, put in all the new equipment, have a staff in there that’s ready to go that knows what to do.” Executive Director of Integrated Media Bill Schaller confirmed that the center was closed at that time “while the temporary space [was] completed.”

As Hayes explained, the employees were “released [from employment by Canon] as a result of reduction in service. “The [University’s] contract was given to Xerox, and as a result, our positions were eliminated because there was nowhere for us to go within the Canon organization. There were no positions for us to be placed into,” he said. 

Due to the changeover, Hayes said that he and his colleagues “fully expected” to receive offers from Xerox, as this had been the practice in all previous turnovers from one company to another at the University, according to Hayes as he described his past experiences going through turnovers as a Copy Center employee. In addition, Hayes said that past turnovers, such as the one to AMS Printing, a company that previously was used to run the Copy Center, led to “absolutely no interruption of service.” 

When asked if Xerox’s plan was to rehire employees and if Xerox had been interviewing new prospects to fill these positions, Hayes replied, “We’re all confused.” 

According to Hayes, the University’s Vice President for Human Resources Scot Bemis sent an email to the now former Canon employees several weeks after the announcement came that the University had sealed its partnership with Xerox, “telling us that he had just found out about our situation,” Hayes said. “So clearly, no one in Brandeis HR had ever been informed there was going to be a possible employment issue with the staff at the Copy Center.” Bemis’ email stated that the University would allow the employees to utilize the Hiatt Career Center and other job searching resources, and that the University would help them apply for and obtain interviews for other jobs on campus, Hayes said. 

However, according to Hayes, Bemis wrote that he could not guarantee that they would be hired. 

Bemis did not respond to requests for comment to by press time.  

When an employee called Storti expressing his concern that none of the employees had received job offers from Xerox, Hayes said that the employee was told to reach out to Xerox. 

Hayes proceeded to describe an instance during which Xerox employees were in the Copy Center looking at the space to assess which machines could be placed in the center. Hayes told the employees that the mailroom and Copy Center staff would be out of jobs, and according to Hayes, “they looked at me and sort of tilted their head and said, ‘Really?’ They didn’t know anything about it. They assumed that we were taken care of. And one particular man said, ‘I’m really glad you told us that, because that’s important and I need to get on top of that, and I’m gonna tell our HR people that right away. I’m really glad you told me.’” 

Almost two weeks after that, Hayes said that he was finally informed that people from Xerox were going to be interviewing the staff about possible opportunities at Xerox. 

Former Senior Vice President for Communications Ellen de Graffenreid could not respond to requests for comment by press time in the Justice’s initial report, writing in an email to the Justice that “there are many issues that are not yet resolved,” which prevented her from providing a statement. 

The University later provided the Justice with a letter intended to explain the situation to staff and faculty from Chief Operating Officer Steve Manos, which reiterated the University’s efforts to help the nine former Canon employees who worked in the mailroom and Copy Center. According to Manos, Canon has found and offered several new positions to its employees who will be leaving Brandeis.  Manos also wrote that “the [U]niversity is working closely with Canon to ensure that affected employees are treated fairly and receive transition assistance.”  

According to Manos, the University will provide each individual with a payment equivalent to what they would have received had they been Brandeis employees and subject to the University’s severance policy “in recognition of the service by these employees to the University community, although they were employed by another entity.” The policy provides four weeks of pay for up to two years of service, eight weeks for two to five years of service, 12 weeks for five to 10 years of service and 16 weeks for more than 10 years of service, according to Manos. However, he added that any severance provided by Canon to its employees would be offset against payments by Brandeis.

Similar to Bemis’ email to the former employees, Manos also wrote that the University would allow the former employees to utilize resume, mock interview and job search support through the Hiatt Career Center and access the Brandeis Employee Assistance Program. Manos also wrote that the University would set up interviews for other jobs on campus for which they are qualified, as well as interviews with Xerox for “possible positions at Brandeis.”

When asked why the University and Xerox did not guarantee positions in the turnover, Schaller wrote that “[we] cannot speak for Xerox, but the company met a while ago with the Canon employees to discuss the requirements of the new positions and to determine their qualifications. We hired Xerox for its expertise in mailroom and copy center operations, and we are not in a position to dictate how they staff and manage these services.”

Although several sources who came forward to the Justice and have worked in the mailroom in the past have claimed that Xerox is planning to cut full-time employment, and that employees from the Copy Center and mailroom that worked for Canon are only being offered part-time work or temporary work, Hayes said that he could not confirm this information, especially on behalf of other employees who received offers different from his own. 

However, Hayes did say that “the University, through Xerox and a Xerox outsourced party, offered us jobs which were far below what we were making.” 

Mailroom workers are not unionized, according to Prof. Gordon Fellman (SOC) in an interview with the Justice. He said that only three groups of employees at Brandeis are unionized, including library workers, dining services employees and buildings and grounds employees. 

—Kathryn Brody contributed reporting.