To the editor,
We have been concerned about misperceptions and incorrect or incomplete information published here, and circulating elsewhere, about Bowdoin’s compensation program for our housekeepers. I want to take the opportunity to set the record straight about our compensation, the importance we place on this issue, and our substantial, ongoing efforts to make sure our housekeepers are compensated appropriately. They are a big part of what makes Bowdoin special.
Recently, some students have voiced concerns about job titles and wages for housekeepers, suggesting that the College intentionally misclassifies housekeepers as “maids and housekeeping cleaners” in order to pay them less than the average of $14.10 per hour earned in Cumberland County by “custodians” (or what the state calls “janitors and cleaners”). These students have asked that we move our wages for housekeepers to the $14.10 average.
Our process for determining compensation doesn’t rely on generic job categories or labels, and we don’t have anything to do with putting employees into state job categories. When we examine wages, we review extensive third-party data, and, for each source, we look for job descriptions that most closely match the specific work our employees do. A comparison of compensation for employees in various roles across institutions is based on their actual job responsibilities and duties and the total compensation—wages and benefits—they receive.
Workers classified by the Maine Department of Labor as “maids and housekeepers” earn, on average, $11.28 an hour in Cumberland County. While there are tasks performed by many Bowdoin housekeepers that fall within the state’s category for “janitors and cleaners,” there are also tasks within Maine’s “janitor and cleaners” definition that are not at all part of our housekeeper’s duties. The point is that neither of the generic categories used by the state accurately reflects the scope of our housekeepers’ responsibilities. And we are keenly aware that, because our employees often go the extra mile, there are occasions when they do something beyond the tasks listed in their job descriptions.
Today, Bowdoin housekeepers, on average, earn $13.97 an hour (and this is before shift differentials). Earlier in January, I met with our housekeeping staff and other hourly workers and announced that, effective July 1, there will be a so-called “compression raise” to keep hourly pay for seasoned employees appropriately above starting rates for new hires. The Orient was made aware of this announcement before their most recent article was published, but chose not to report on it. As a result of these wage adjustments and the regular July 1 salary pool increases, the average housekeeper will earn an estimated $14.95 per hour.
In addition to these hourly wages, the College provides a benefits package that is equaled by few, if any, other Maine employers. It includes competitive health, dental, and vision plans for employees and their families, fully vested retirement contributions, disability and life insurance, tuition assistance for employees, scholarships for dependents, multiple paid holidays and paid vacation, paid sick leave, emergency paid sick leave, and more.
These are the facts. We strive to compensate our housekeepers and other hourly employees appropriately with wages and benefits that reflect their outstanding contributions to the College. As we have always done, we will continue to regularly review and adjust our compensation program to ensure that it remains among the very best in Maine.
Senior Vice President for Finance and Administration & Treasurer