SD20 trying to overcome staffing woes

Casual staff needed to balance workload, says CUPE president

School District 20’s new standard of “moderately dingy” is becoming a reality as the district grapples with lack of custodial coverage, according to CUPE president Roger Smith.

The representative of Local 1285 members (including school bus drivers, custodians, clericals and maintenance) said a lot has changed since he started as a custodian 24 years ago.

At times he finds himself pulling two jobs in one shift because casual employees are unavailable due to long-term illness or injury coverage and in some instances balancing another job to make ends meet.

“The way this is being handled right now, you’re burning out the ones who are still working, you’re bringing down the standards of other areas because people are trying to do two areas in one shift because there is no coverage,” he said.

“There has been a lack of custodial coverage and I’m not laying all the blame on the school board, it’s because people are off on long-term leave.”

Custodians are not the only employees feeling the pinch. There was a need for direct student support staff (education assistants, child care workers, child and youth care workers) and as a result 17 casuals were added to the call-out list by last September.

The range of absences this fall was as low as one to as high as 13, according to a support staff replacements report presented to the board this December.

For example on Dec. 11, 2013, there were 13 support staff away, which works out to about 20 per cent absent. Though there were enough people on the call-out list to cover the 13 positions, the availability of the casual workers was another story.

The substitute budget (which covers sick leave, vacation, bereavement and family emergency) was on the rise but has somewhat stabilized since it was hit in the 2010/2011 school year with about a half a million dollar increase to approximately $1.5 million from the year prior.

Last year, about $1.4 million was spent on substitutes, which is far greater than the approximate $900,000 spent in 2007/2008.

Superintendent of schools Greg Luterbach admits the district is feeling pressure with coverage in custodial and bus driving but assured that the district is working hard to recruit casual employees.

“We just ran ads for drivers and we are looking for casual custodians too,” he said. “We offer very competitive wages ($21.49 an hour for custodial work and $24.22 per hour for bus driving).”

It’s a fine balancing act to keep enough people on the callout list to replace when needed but not too many so the casuals get enough work and don’t become discouraged.

Beyond working shorthanded, Smith has watched work quality and employee morale diminish as budgets were slashed.

He can speak directly to the custodial department, which he said has been cut down to 11 months. Deep ceiling to floor sanitization is no longer done and staff no longer goes in at Christmas or during the first week of spring break to maintain conditions.

“There could be a direct correlation between not disinfecting the schools to the standards that we used to, to (the number of absentees) and here is the trade off,” he said. “The sick time will increase because you’ve got an ageing workforce and you’ve got a lot more stress due to cutbacks.”

Just Posted

Work has begun on the $10-million, 120-kilometre fibre-optic line from Playmor Junction to north of Nakusp. File photo
Work begins on Slocan Valley fibre-optic line

The $10-million, 120-kilometre fibre-optic line runs from Playmor Junction to north of Nakusp

Prince Charles Secondary School
School District 8 votes in favour of name change for Secondary School in Creston

In an act of reconciliation, a new name will be chosen for Prince Charles Secondary School

A B.C. police officer shows an approved roadside screening device. Photo: Saanich News file
Woman caught passed out behind the wheel in Trail

Police located the 38-year old in her parked but still running car, and had to rouse her awake.

Jade Osecki leading a Fridays for Future climate march in Nelson in 2020. Photo: Submitted
Nelson Grade 12 student Jade Osecki wins Suzy Hamilton Award

Carolyn Schramm was also honoured in this year’s environmental award for West Kootenay women

Photo courtesy of Mercer Celgar
Mercer Celgar to install new technology thanks to $4.5 million in federal funds

Project features process to improve fibre processing and address regional fibre availability issues

Maxwell Johnson is seen in Bella Bella, B.C., in an undated photo. The Indigenous man from British Columbia has filed complaints with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal and the Canadian Human Rights Commission after he and his granddaughter were handcuffed when they tried to open a bank account. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Heiltsuk Nation, Damien Gillis, *MANDATORY CREDIT*
VIDEO: Chiefs join human rights case of Indigenous man handcuffed by police in B.C. bank

Maxwell Johnson said he wants change, not just words, from Vancouver police

Tk’emlups te Secwepemc Chief Rosanne Casimir stands outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School after speaking to reporters, in Kamloops, B.C., on Friday, June 4, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Kamloops chief says more unmarked graves will be found across Canada

Chief Rosanne Casimir told a virtual news conference the nation expects to release a report at the end of June

A woman wears a vaccinated sticker after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. ranks among highest in world in COVID-19 first-dose shots: health officials

More than 76% of eligible people have received their 1st shot

A screenshot of the First Peoples Cultural Councils First Peoples’ Map. (First Peoples Cultural Council)
Online resource blends B.C.-Alberta’s Indigenous languages, art and culture

Advisor says initiative supports the urgent need to preserve Indigenous languages

An artists conception of the new terminal building at the Pitt Meadows Regional Airport.
Air travel taking off in B.C., but lack of traffic controllers a sky-high concern

There will be demand for more air traffic controllers: Miller

Canadian Armed Forces experts are on their way to North Vancouver after a local homeowner expressed worry about a military artifact he recently purchased. (Twitter DNV Fire and Rescue)
Military called in to deal with antique ‘shell’ at North Vancouver home

‘The person somehow purchased a bombshell innocently believing it was an out-of-commission military artifact’

Amy Kobelt and Tony Cruz have set their wedding date for February, hoping that more COVID-19 restrictions will have lifted. (The Macleans)
B.C. couples ‘gambling’ on whether COVID rules will let them dance at their wedding

Amy Kobelt and Tony Cruz pushed back their wedding in hopes of being able to celebrate it without the constraints of COVID-19

A plane is silhouetted as it takes off from Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C., May 13, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Report calls for airlines to refund passengers for flights halted due to COVID-19

Conclusion: federal help should be on the condition airlines immediately refund Canadian travellers

Most Read