After ten years of cuts, 12.5 more caretaking positions to be eliminated.
Calgary – The Calgary Board of Education (CBE) released its preliminary budget today outlining more cuts for school caretaking services. This year’s staff reductions continue a ten-year trend of cuts in school maintenance.
“This will mean dirtier classrooms, dirtier lunchrooms and a continuing deterioration of our school facilities. The budget adds up to more risk of infection and increasing hardship for those students and staff with allergies. Dirty, unpleasant and unsafe schools do serious damage to the learning process for all students,” said CUPE Local 40 president, Fred Latreille.
Between 1994 and 1996, the CBE cut over 70 positions from the plant and operations budget and contracted out cleaning services. After contracting-out proved to be a dismal failure, cleaning was re-assigned to existing staff with no increase in positions. Since that time, the number of school sites has increased while the number of caretakers, cleaners, maintenance and delivery staff have been reduced through cuts and attrition.
“While the Board is reporting a 2.9% increase in the budget for plant and operations, inflationary pressures mean that increase is really a cut to current operations,” said Latreille. “Given the past ten years of cuts, our members are already reporting serious problems in many of our schools.
CUPE Local 40 has compiled a history of cuts painting a picture of inadequate staffing, heavy workload and the threat to schools and children.
“The plant and operations staff are well-trained and hard working people who care deeply about students. They put in extra time and effort but cannot do the job without the needed staff and resources. This budget takes us completely in the wrong direction,” concluded Latreille.
CUPE is Canada’s largest union with over half a million women and men who provide public services. In Alberta, CUPE’s 31,000 members work in health care, municipalities, schools, colleges, universities, libraries, emergency medical services, social services and casinos. Visit our CUPE website for more information cupealberta.ab.ca
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Pam Beattie CUPE Communications
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The Chronology of Cuts to the Learning Environment for Children at the Calgary Board of Education
CBE budget 1992-93 - In this budget, a total of sixty-five caretaker positions were eliminated resulting in reduction in daily cleaning and floor care, shampooing and vacuuming of carpets and reduction in maintenance services. Cleaner I positions were reduced to 10 months per year from 12 months. Six distribution positions were eliminated resulting in delays in delivery of essential school equipment and supplies.
CBE budget 1993-94 – Four more caretaker positions were eliminated and services were contracted out at a number of sites resulting in a further reduction in staff available for ad-hoc non cleaning tasks. At the same time new school openings are scheduled for the capital budget plan over the next three years.
CBE budget 1994-95 – Provincial government assumes funding responsibility. Total budget reductions of 44.5 million results in $760,000 reduction in Plant and Operations and the resulting loss of 22 FTE positions.
CBE budget 1995-96 – In this budget 48.3 FTE positions were eliminated in Plant Operations and Maintenance.
CBE budget proposal 1996-97 – Based on the assumptions that funding will remain the same as past year, inflationary cost increases will be absorbed within funding blocks, two new elementary schools will be opened and no budget provision for changes in contracted salary and wage rates.
March 1997 – a staffing study undertaken by Local 40 found that:
- 73% of respondents put in extra unpaid time before and after shifts as a way of coping with increased workload resulting from staffing cuts.
- 93% of respondents performed additional tasks requested by teaching staff on a routine basis.
- increased workloads contributed to increases in stress related illnesses, injuries, LTD claims and plummeting morale.
As one respondent stated “I think the school board wants Cadillac service with Model T equipment and a shortage of staff in most schools”.
June 30, 1998 – after more than four years of expanding caretaking/cleaning services to include 34 CBE sites, a Board report to the Superintendents Team, based on a service review survey included the following findings:
- 59% indicated contract cleaning services had negative influence or effect on the morale of school staff.
- approximately half of respondents indicate CBE schools and worksites lacked trust and confidence with respect to contract cleaning services.
- Comments indicated concerns about inconsistent work practices in areas including reliability in taking necessary security steps, inconsistencies in service delivery, quality and quantity of the work performed.
- At certain sites, the cost of contracted services proved to be higher then those provided in-house.
May 25, 1999 – CUPE Local 40 released a study prepared by Professor Dean Neu that identified the deterioration of learning environments in Calgary public schools. The study documents:
- the erosion of funding for facilities upkeep from 1990 to 1999.
- Specific disadvantages created for CBE by new structure of school board funding
- The requirements for increased maintenance of older CBE buildings cannot be adequately addressed in the current funding environment.
“Declining staffing has resulted in less safe, less clean, less secure and…a less attractive learning environment”.
January 28, 2000 – CUPE Local 40 sent a letter to the Board expressing concern about the need to restore funding to plant and operations. The letter states “…the budget reductions have seen schools reduced to one person, and replaced with a cleaner part-time or nights. Also schools have been reduced where there was 2 to 3 staff on days to only one person.” Concern was also raised about the costs of increased vandalism where no caretaker is on-site.
March 17, 2000 – A memo was provided to caretakers addressing the procedures and equipment required for clean-up and disposal of needles. This responsibility highlights the critical role of school caretaker staff in maintaining safe and secure environments.
May 2, 2000 – Jane Cawthorne, Trustee Wards 6 and 7 submitted 3 motions to the Board concerning the environmental services budget. She cited an estimated $300 million in backlog in facilities and maintenance repairs in the system. The motions addressed concerns about false economies and hidden costs associated with contracting out and the loss of skilled staff familiar with school requirements that would result from the elimination of the furniture repair and roofer positions.
Budget proposals for 2000-2003. CBE approved plans to budget $1.8 million over a three year period to be divided among cleaning and supplies, facility maintenance and the remaining third to be used as decided by a Task Force. School cleanliness and safety were identified as priorities in order to ensure that available dollars are directed to these areas. The membership survey undertaken by CUPE local 40 in the winter of 2001 included the following question asking whether this additional funding will “be adequate to restore high quality services in your area?” Over 60% of respondents to this question said “no”.
Alberta Learning is undertaking a consultation regarding the priorities of new infrastructure funding for Alberta schools through the Stakeholders Committee. Despite years of documented concerns (in reports, media, etc.) Calgary Board of Education was not chosen to be among the Board’s represented in that working committee.
January – March 2001 – CUPE Local 40 Membership Survey
CUPE members were asked to “Please indicate any problems you are aware of affecting the work of members of Local 40 or in the schools generally: