CUPE 409, New Westminster Secondary School
Custodian, 17 years
The biggest change I’ve seen over the years is that maintenance is so underfunded. We lost three full-time custodians out of this school alone. Custodians are the only group of employees who don’t get replaced when we’re sick.
A lot of people in this district take pride in the work they do, but the effort isn’t recognized. Before we got one person back we were not taking breaks to get our area done. If you stopped working you got totally behind. We were getting burned out. That’s when accidents happen. You’re tired so you trip down the stairs or stumble, because you’re so exhausted. The thing is, most of us are conscientious and we want to make sure everyone’s room is up to standard.
You never know what you’re going to find when you come into work. It may be fine for a week and then you come in one day and students have had a pop fight in the classroom so there’s a sticky mess to clean up. When people come in the next day they don’t see what happened the night before. Instead you get a complaint that something wasn’t done.
Before all the cuts you were able to make a system for yourself and you could keep to it. For example, you might do whiteboards once a week or mop floors once a week. Now that’s impossible. Now you do the floors whenever you get a chance. That’s usually at spring break, Christmas, or during the summer because you just don’t have time to mop all the floors. It’s just not feasible.
People forget about the technology. There are way more computers in schools now. All this technology attracts dust and we need to clean it. We also do recycling now. So there’s more to clean and less time to do it.
A lot of people are conscientious and want to do a good job. I see a lot of burnout. Once you’re here for awhile you get the gist of things. I always try to tell people to keep their area clean because there may come that one day when you just can’t get to it. I want people to realize that the school doesn’t get clean by itself. There are custodians working hard to make them that way.