CUPE 4990, Quesnel Junior School
Custodian, 24 years
When the cuts started it was a little here and a little there, but it was enough to affect a new casual. I was a casual for six years. My first permanent assignment was for a two-hour shift. I was a single mom with two young children to raise so when I got a job at the school district, I was really proud of it. I worked a lot, picking up extra work where I could and I rarely missed any days. The problem with working night shift is that somebody else is basically raising your kids because you only see them on the weekends.
Now I’m working as a daytime custodian. In the morning, I get to school and I disarm alarms and unlock the building. I have three bathrooms to clean. In the winter, I shovel all the entrances and put out lava rock if it’s icy. By that time the buses are arriving and I pick up puddles and what have you when it’s wet. It’s normal stuff that you start to pick up the puddles and when the floor is dry enough for me to sweep, inevitably someone comes in late and they don’t stomp off their boots. You just get used to it. We do the best we can. We take a lot of pride in our work.
All of our elementary schools that had two shifts (eight-hour and a six-hour shifts) had the six-hour shift cut, so in those schools one person is doing the entire school. We were told there wouldn’t be time to do it all – so they said to lower the standards and only wipe up the desks from K to 3. As custodians we were concerned that there would be more illnesses as a result, because everything could not be disinfected or cleaned the way we want it to be. So we have to prioritize. We have to say disinfecting washrooms are far more important than cleaning somebody’s office. Certain things just have to go, like disinfecting doorknobs.
Community groups use our school almost every evening – everything from cubs and scouts to volleyball and roller derby, of all things. So there are lots of extra people in the hallways at night. The shift for night shift ends at 10:30 and sometimes the groups just finish up at 10. The night custodians often don’t have enough time to properly clean up after the groups go. It’s great that our school is so well used, but it adds stress when you can’t clean as well as you want to.
We all want to do a good job, but it’s incredibly frustrating when the cuts are so deep and you want to do things. And it’s not fussy things. It’s things like wash a wall here and there extra. You barely have time and we all have to do a little more administrative paperwork as well. You’ve got precious little time and you want to keep everyone happy.
To me, communication is key. Cooperation, respect. Those are all things that make you want to go and do your job every day.