Forward of the primary day of college, and fears of a cold-weather spike in COVID-19 instances and different viruses, the Thames Valley District College Board is shedding 16 custodians and shifting focus to air flow somewhat than cleansing high-touch surfaces.
“It would not make sense, as a result of the variety of college students has elevated, the dimensions of buildings has not decreased, however they’re eliminating these 16 positions,” mentioned Mary Henry, the president of CUPE Native 4222, which represents the custodians.
The college board says it employed custodians in accordance with provincial and well being unit pointers, however that priorities are actually completely different.
“As we be taught extra about this virus, our precedence has shifted to air flow in faculties,” mentioned Geoff Vogt, the varsity board’s superintendent of capital planning and facility providers. “Our focus has shifted away from contact cleansing.”
Ontario’s ministry of schooling’s well being and security measures for faculties embody persevering with enhanced cleansing practices, which incorporates “cleansing high-touch surfaces, like consuming areas, washrooms, doorknobs and desks at the very least as soon as a day,” in accordance with the provincial web site.
Air flow can be to be upgraded and filters cleaned regularly, the web site states.
Extra work, much less workers
That will probably be a problem with 16 fewer individuals, with extra college students in class buildings and the custodians that stay already overworked, mentioned Henry.
“These custodians have by no means been in a position to work at home, in order that they have been bodily in these buildings since day one. They’re exhausted. They’ve constantly been thrown further work with much less and fewer workers and so they’re drained, they’re stressed,” Henry added.
The college board says it prioritizes well being and security, and desires to improve air flow programs, Vogt mentioned. There will probably be mechanical air flow in all Thames Valley faculties by 2024, he added.
“Decreasing the potential unfold of COVID-19, in addition to the transmission of different infectious brokers, requires a layered strategy, which incorporates air flow, vaccination and people with signs staying house, along with the common cleansing of high-touch surfaces,” mentioned Alex Summers, the area’s medical officer of well being.
“Every factor performs a job. Particularly to the cleansing of high-touch surfaces, there is no such thing as a evidence-informed knowledge concerning the frequency of cleansing, however as famous, it stays a part of an infection prevention and management.”
The 16 custodial jobs have been funded by means of a particular provincial fund that can be utilized by college boards to satisfy native wants. That cash will now be re-allocated, although the varsity board was unable to supply details about the place the cash would go.
However for the custodians getting laid off, it is a sign that the board doesn’t worth their work, mentioned Jennifer Barnett, a nationwide workers consultant for CUPE.
“College sq. footage hasn’t modified. There are extra college students. The staffing necessities are nonetheless the identical, and but the varsity board shouldn’t be prioritizing custodial,” Barnett mentioned.
“The finances really elevated by $3 million from final 12 months, so how do they not come up with the money for for our 16 employees, who through the pandemic saved the faculties clear and protected in order that colleagues might come again to work and in order that college students might come again to highschool the place the most effective studying occurs,” Barnett added.