Charlene B.

CUPE 2098, Boundary Central Secondary School, Midway
Custodian, 28 years

I graduated from this high school. My kids graduated at this high school. The school district does the best it can for kids with the money the provincial government provides, but education is not funded properly. I’m from a small community and the school is a really important part of that community. Our kids deserve access to a good education. I’m proud of the work CUPE 2098 members do and how much we care. Cuts affect not only workers, but the kids as well.

I enjoy working night shift because you get a lot of satisfaction from being able to look around and see what you were able to accomplish. I’ve seen a lot of changes since I first started working in 1989. Custodians would work the whole summer. We went from all summer, to three weeks, to two weeks. Now with all the cuts we’re down to two weeks in the summer for the heavy clean.

With the cuts we just can’t do summer clean up the same. No lights get done anymore. Walls, you just pick and choose which ones you can see instead of washing all the walls. You get what you see. Lights are big, but after a while you get used to just turning away and say it’s not our job. It can’t be our job anymore. There’s no time. It’s nobody’s job anymore. The lights get full of bugs. You hope that they burn out sooner so at least when they change the lights the bugs get cleaned out. Now we only are able to scrub and wax floors once a year. You just sort of shuffle work around.

We also used to work five days a week. Now school is only four days a week. If a person sat down and figured out how much our pay has gone down, it’s big. We went from 12 months, to 10 ½ months, to four days a week. If I sat down and figured out what I’d be making if I worked full-time compared to what I’m making now, it’s huge.

In the past 5 years, many of the schools in our local have lost anywhere from one to eight hours a day in custodial hours.

For a long time, it was really, really, really hard to be able to just walk away and say that’s good enough. You just kept pushing yourself and pushing yourself and then finally it’s like ‘what am I doing?’ I want to be able to work until I’m 65. Finally, I just had to turn around and say it’s good enough and see if you heard anything back on it, if there were any complaints.

As in all custodian jobs, if you run into an ‘oh my goodness, we’ve got a couple of really badly plugged toilets’, then you know to cut corners that night in other areas. You have to do what you have to do. We’re the only ones who really notice. We’re the hardest on ourselves. We know that we went through that room real fast.