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The Thames Valley District School Board in Ontario decided to contract out custodial services at 17 schools to two private firms after the initial contractor filed for bankruptcy. The decision of the board comes despite a recent announcement of a $506,000 budgetary surplus.

The bankruptcy of a ServiceMaster franchisee left 42 custodians in the lurch. The board had an opportunity to give 17 full-time and 25 part-time staff stable public jobs. Instead, privatization prevailed—just as the board announced its surplus. The board’s executive superintendent of business, Brian Greene, said there was “no chance” the board would hire the custodians.

Members of CUPE 4222, the local representing 2,000 school board workers at the Thames Valley District School Board in southern Ontario, were deeply disappointed by the decision. “Why would management allow another profit seeking company to replace a bankrupt contractor that has failed the public, when the board has its own experienced and reliable public workers?” CUPE 4222 president Dave Hill wondered at the time. “It would have made more sense to bring this work in house so all schools in the board could benefit from directly accountable public services.”

At a meeting with school board management Aug. 26 to discuss the possibility of bringing the custodial services in-house, CUPE 4222 learned that management had already signed a contract with another private company within days of the bankruptcy of the first contractor.

Privatization robs our schools of precious public resources, as private companies are driven by the bottom line,” said Hill. “Contracting-in the custodial services will now be a priority in our upcoming contract negotiations,” said Hill. The union’s contract expired Aug. 31, with bargaining scheduled to start in September.