VICTORIA – Eliminating daytime custodial services is an ill-conceived plan that will leave Victoria schools less clean and healthy, lead to increased spread of common illnesses, and more student and staff absences due to illness, says Victoria school support workers. The Canadian Union of Public Employees local 382 is calling on Victoria School District 61 to reverse its decision to cut these critical services.
“Daytime custodians are our first line of defense for preventing the spread of colds, flus and other communicable diseases in our schools,” says Paul Knapik a school support worker in the district, and president of CUPE 382, the union representing over 200 maintenance workers and trades people in Victoria School District 61, including custodians.
“Their work reduces the amount of time staff and students miss due to illness and protects the overall health of Victoria. Eliminating these services to cut budgets is a step backwards – increased absences will mean little to no cost savings for schools. And parents with sick kids mean missed work, if anything these cuts will cost the local economy even more,” says Knapik.
Unlike many school districts across the province that cut daytime custodial services in the early 2000’s, the Victoria School District 61 has maintained the services for decades. Knapik says that when the COVID pandemic arose two years ago, the district’s decision to maintain these critical services proved very beneficial.
“When the pandemic hit, universal daytime custodial hours were implemented in all B.C. schools for the first time in twenty years and was a major part in preventing the spread of COVID-19 in schools. Our district was really ahead of the game,” says Knapik. “Eliminating these services is short-sighted. Keeping our schools clean and healthy should be a priority, and we should stay vigilant and prepared to protect our students from future, unforeseen public health crises.”
CUPE 382 represents over 210 members in the Victoria School District, including painters, custodians, carpenters, plumbers, groundskeepers, electricians, equipment operators, truck drivers, labourers, and other skilled trades people. CUPE is the province’s largest public education union, representing over 30,000 school support workers in B.C.