Caretakers rally to demand respect and equity from their employer
CALGARY – Budget cuts at the University of Calgary are unfairly targeting the most vulnerable workers on campus, says the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE).
“About 200 caretakers on low wages are bearing unnecessary pain from the university’s cuts,” says Justin Huseby, president of AUPE Local 052, which represents support workers at the university.
Workers and supporters are holding a rally and information picket at 11:30 a.m. today (Thursday, March 17), in front of the Administration building at the U of C.
“Most of these workers are women, people of colour or new to Canada. They earn between $16 And $20 per hour, which is less than a living wage,” says Huseby. “The University of Calgary boasts about its efforts on Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, but turns around to target these workers. It’s hypocritical and shameful.”
The university has abolished 24 jobs in the last week, including caretakers; specialist advisors; operational/administration workers; and technicians.
It is also unilaterally changing the caretakers’ shifts in order to squeeze $2.50 per hour in shift premiums from many caretakers.
“This was not done for any operational reason. It was done purely to take away a chunk of their already low wages,” says Huseby. “It’s difficult for these hard-working people to accept that a university with a $1.4 billion budget, led by a president earning $249 per hour, is targeting them.”
Caretakers are reeling from years of attacks, including the loss of 40 jobs last year. The latest changes increase their workload significantly, with the U of C asking for a ratio of one caretaker per 35,000 sq. ft instead of 30,000 sq. ft.
“More cleaning and caretaking must now be done when students are still on campus and using the university facilities. The new shifts make it hard for caretakers to do their work and harder for students who don’t want to be distracted from their studies,” he says.
“Many caretakers have to work two jobs to make ends meet. The change in shifts is forcing some to give up one of their jobs. That and the drop income is causing real financial hardships,” says Huseby.
“These workers have had enough. They want to be treated with respect. They want to be treated with equity. There is no justifiable reason for the university to make these shift changes.”
AUPE Local 05 chair Justine Huseby is available for comment and will be at the information picket.
For information, please contact Terry Inigo-Jones, communications officer, at 403-831-4394 or firstname.lastname@example.org.