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Caretakers stand up against lack of university support

By Sophia Lopez, April 7 2022—

Members of the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE) Local 52 gathered around the Taylor Family Digital Library (TFDL) Quad today to protest the cuts in pay that University of Calgary caretakers have faced over the course of the pandemic. 

The chair of AUPE Local 52, Justin Huseby, led caretakers and supporters in a march and chant to raise awareness for the lack of support caretakers have received from the university. Huseby explained how the recent provincial budget cuts have resulted in university administration cutting back on caretakers pay, which already happens to be less than a living wage.

“In addition to the job losses, the quality of the service level of caretaking on campus is intentionally going to go worse by the decisions,” said Huseby. “A lot of the people that are here today lost $2.50 out of their wages, and that’s a result of the institution deciding to cut severa shift. $2.50 represented living wages for many of the caretakers.”

Huseby believes the university isn’t doing enough to practice EDI in all areas of campus life, as caretakers and their needs continue to be disregarded.

“This is about equity. This is about respect,” said Huseby. “This is about the disruption that the university did in terms of changing from five shifts to four now down to two — no other area of the university experienced this.”

In addition to caretakers being the lowest paid workers on campus, many of them are women and people of colour who are suffering these cuts. 

“At a time here, with these escalating costs, the institution has decided to essentially go to our lowest paid workers,” said Huseby. “These are all low income, mostly racialized people, mostly women and all of them care about this place.” 

The vice chair of AUPE Local 52, Prachi Mishra, discussed how with the new shift schedule created by the university — which is 1:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., in addition to the 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. shift already in place — students and caretakers will be on campus during the similar time. She said this can make it especially difficult for caretakers to properly clean areas on campus. 

“There’s not enough time for them to clean those spaces. So what students are going to notice is that campus is significantly going to get less clean,” said Mishra. “And for students who are paying increased tuition to then come to a campus that doesn’t even meet basic cleanliness that it would’ve a few years ago — it just doesn’t make any sense.”

Mishra encourages students to come out and support their caretakers. She believes both students and carektakers deserve more support from the university. 

“Coming to rallies and upcoming protests, that makes a huge difference,” said Mishra. “I know, personally, the caretakers are so excited to see students be a part of. If you see a caretaker, thank them for their service, let them know that they matter.” 

While Mishra understands that cuts were necessary to a certain degree, she remains disappointed in the university’s decision to target a group that is so essential to a clean campus.

“I understand there are budget cuts, but at the end of the day, the university administration decides where those cuts lie,” said Mishra. “And the fact that they came to the lowest paid staff on campus in incomprehensible. It’s faculty, students and staff who make up the university.”

Whether or not more rallies will take place will be up to caretakers. For more information and updates, follow the AUPE on Instagram and Twitter. To reach the AUPE directly, visit their website.

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