SAULT STE. MARIE, Ont. – The union representing 150 custodial, maintenance and cafeteria workers at the Algoma District School Board is fighting cuts made by the board that target cleaning and maintenance, despite dedicated funding from the Ontario Ministry of Education for that purpose.
“Our members have been singled out for attack, and that means less cleaning, less maintenance and poorer school environments for students,” said Rick Alexander, representative for Local 16 of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE). The board plans to eliminate 12 to 15 custodial and cafeteria positions in schools in and around the Sault area, affecting cleaning and maintenance schedules.
“Enrolment dropped 2.2 per cent last year, but custodial and maintenance staff are being cut close to 10 per cent – it just doesn’t add up,” said Alexander. The board has so far denied CUPE’s request for financial disclosure around maintenance funds that were assigned to the board following the last round of provincial negotiations – funds that were tied to square footage and designed to improve maintenance allocations. “There was an increase in funding per square foot through those discussions, and yet the board is cutting frontline custodial positions, while no cuts have been made to administration or management.”
While two high schools will be merged into one new high school, the board continues to maintain several vacant properties that could skew the square footage calculations, if allocations are not properly used by the school board.
“These cuts will also have a disruptive effect in other school services, as displaced employees exercise seniority and bumping rights, under the collective agreement,” said Alexander. “On top of the impact on school services, the local economy will suffer the loss of at least a dozen decent paying jobs – something Sault Ste Marie cannot afford.”
CUPE will be filing grievances on behalf of unjustly displaced employees and questionable practices, while the union continues to push for full financial disclosure from the school board, to ensure provincial maintenance funds have been spent as they were intended. “We are urging parents and the school community to contact trustees and demand they stop the frontline cuts, before it’s too late.”
For further information, please contact:
Rick Alexander, CUPE National Representative: 705-949-6221
Robert Lamoureux, CUPE Communications: 416-292-3999