Fed up with employers who are embracing the lowest standards of cleanliness on campus, university custodians across Ontario are sounding the alarm.
“Universities are embracing ‘unkempt neglect’ as a standard cleanliness. That will do irreparable harm to learning, research and living conditions at Ontario’s universities,” said Janice Folk-Dawson, Chair of the Ontario University Workers’ Coordinating Committee (OUWCC), which speaks for more than 30,000 university workers represented by CUPE (Canadian Union of Public Employees) Ontario.
To cover the gap created by chronic government underfunding, universities have targeted custodial staff – one of the most precarious groups of campus workers – by lowering cleanliness standards, leaving front line custodial positions unfilled, and limiting access to supplies while increasing the number of students and senior administration.
“It is outrageous that government underfunding has universities embracing ‘unkempt neglect’ as a cleaning standard to aspire to while tuition soars,” said Fred Hahn, President of CUPE Ontario. “Underfunding of post-secondary education should be on the minds of every Canadian as they vote in the federal election. It’s time to elect Tom Mulcair and the NDP so we can begin to address decades of federal Liberal and Conservative cuts.”
Most universities use a five-level standard of cleanliness for custodial services on campus, ranging from ‘Orderly Spotlessness,’ the highest standard, to ‘Unkempt Neglect,’ the lowest.
A 2008 Auditor General’s report noted most universities in Ontario resource custodial operations to between Level 3 and Level 4.
Folk-Dawson noted that further contracting out and cuts to custodial services at universities across Ontario “are very clearly moving the goalposts down to the lowest level, unkempt neglect.”
Several universities, including the University of Windsor, have recently announced further contracting out of custodial services.
“These cuts to custodial services mean students are not getting the services they need, deserve and are paying for,” said Folk-Dawson.
“A clean, safe learning and living environment is part of the whole student experience. When custodial services are contracted out, it means these workers are not university community members and don’t have the level of health and safety skills and training in-house cleaners do,” she added.
Earlier this month, CUPE leadership, representing university custodial workers from across the province, gathered to develop a comprehensive strategy and campaign to ensure cleaning standards are raised and good jobs are protected on campus.
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