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EDMONTON - In a statement made in the Legislature on Wednesday, Lethbridge East Liberal MLA Bridget Pastoor insulted public school custodial workers by suggesting there would be no impact on education if our jobs were cut. She stated that schools can get along without custodians, she called us janitors, but not without teachers.

Studies show that the cleanliness and maintenance of schools are essential to student achievement. In fact student attendance and absenteeism are reduced in clean well kept schools. Student marks increase where students know the school is well kept, where it isn’t marks decrease because the students know “nothing important is happening here”.

While CUPE Local 474 sympathizes with the plight of the Lethbridge Public School Board, which is facing a funding shortfall, so are Edmonton Public, Black Gold Region, Edmonton Catholic and Calgary Board of Education schools.

“The government needs to fully fund our public schools; however pitting one group of workers against another is not useful, even if it was only used for rhetorical purposes,” said CUPE 474 President Doug Luellman. “It shows that the Liberal Opposition is no different than the government; they undervalue the work done by public school custodial workers. It is this attitude that has allowed our schools across Alberta to become dangerously unhealthy.”

“Cuts to custodial staff have led to increased indoor air quality problems in schools resulting in sick building syndrome. Custodial staff along with other support staff is essential to support teaching and student learning. Without us schools would not function. ”

CUPE Local 474, which represents over 600 public school custodial workers in Edmonton and as far as Warburg, is demanding an apology from Liberal Leader Kevin Taft and Lethbridge East MLA, Bridget Pastor. “We wish the apology to be read into Hansard at the next sitting of the 26th Session of the Legislature.”