Please send a message that caretakers deserve respect and equity
Question: What kind of employer boasts about its Equity, Diversity and Inclusion efforts but then targets vulnerable workers who are mostly women, people of colour and new Canadians?
Answer: The University of Calgary.
Thar’s not all. Many of these workers – university caretakers – are also among the lowest paid people on campus. They make between $16 and $20 per hour, which isn’t even a living wage.
This shameful and hypocritical move is causing real hardship among many of these 200 workers, all members of AUPE Local 052. We all need to fight back against this unfair treatment of our members.
The U of C is targeting caretakers by changing the shifts these members work.
The shift changes will mean a loss of income for about half of the members. Where there used to be five shifts, including a graveyard shift, there will now be only two shifts. These shifts are deliberately timed to avoid the university having to pay a shift premium of $2.50 per hour.
Because many of these members cannot earn enough from their U of C job to survive, they must work second jobs. Changing the times for their shifts at U of C is conflicting with many of those second jobs.
Some members are having to choose to give up one of their jobs, which will cause severe financial hardship. The shift changes are also creating lots of family-care issues for members. Some will have to quit work to take care of children or aging parents.
Another problem that has existed for some time is that many of the caretakers are classified by the employer as part time, even though they work full-time hours. The employer refuses to give them full-time status, denying them some of the modest full-time benefits that their families need.
Who are these caretakers?
Most of the 200 workers are women, people of colour or new to Canada. The fact that the university chooses to attack these workers while claiming it is a leader in Equity, Diversity and Inclusion is disturbing and hypocritical.
Was the decision to target these workers made while bearing in mind the ideals of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion? It seems not.
These cuts and changes will save very little money for the university, but will cost these workers a great deal, including how much they earn and the loss of second jobs for some.
It will also create significant problems in how they get to and from work. The only shifts the university is proposing are from 6 a.m. - 2 p.m. or from 1:30 p.m. - 9:30 p.m.
Many of these workers must use Calgary Transit to get to and from work – and that is difficult for those who have to be at work before 6 a.m. and who are leaving after 9:30 p.m. It can add hours to the daily commute. Travelling late at night can also pose a frightening challenge for women.
Will these changes affect students?
More of the work, especially the cleaning of campus facilities, will now be done during the daytime, when students are on campus.
As students return to campus after two years of mainly online teaching, this will lead to more contact between more people and less social distancing. While pandemic restrictions have eased, COVID-19 is still with us and there may be new variants coming.
Increased contact and decreased social distancing mean higher health risks for students and workers.
More work will now be done in the presence of students. This means more distractions for students who already have intense school-work to worry about.
The quality and timeliness of work will also be affected. The U of C says that there will now be one worker per 35,000 sq. ft. of campus space instead of one worker per 30,000 sq. ft. That is a significant increase in workload.
What can you do?
Please contact leaders at the U of C and Alberta Labour Minister Kaycee Madu. The university needs to stop targeting vulnerable workers. Workers deserve respect. Workers deserve equity. You can phone U of C leaders and Minister Madu at these numbers. You can email them and using the forms below.
- U of, C President Dr. Edward McCauley: 403.220.5617.
- U of C Interim VP (Finance & Services) Michael Van Hee: 403.220.4926.
- Alberta Minister of Labour Kaycee Madu: 780.638.9400.