District custodial services reviewed
Nanaimo school district custodians have a higher workload than several comparable districts, but a review of the department suggests maintaining existing staffing levels.
The review was ordered after the school board voted last spring to increase the square footage per custodian as a money-saving measure and concerns were raised about whether custodians would be able to keep schools adequately clean.
The reduction of 1.4 janitors saved the district about $74,000.
A consultant compared Nanaimo to similar districts, received survey responses from 25 school principals, made site inspections of six schools, and received input from departments, schools and CUPE.
The findings include: that local custodians have the second highest square metre per custodian ratio and the lowest number of employees when compared with five other districts; the workload of the department's two supervisors is too heavy and they are unable to provide any ongoing training or quality control; some schools did not have appropriate staffing for the amount of work done each afternoon; and the union has concerns about unfair workload assignments, biased discipline and an increased workload.
Recommendations include relieving supervisors of some of their workload so they can get more involved in training and site visits, and maintaining current staffing levels.
While some areas for improvement were identified, such as in dusting, the report concluded there are no health and safety concerns for either custodians or school occupants with existing staffing.
Jamie Brennan, school board chairman, said trustees asked staff to look into acquiring floor scrubbing machines for all schools – the machines are only in some schools – so employees can do a better job with less physical effort or injuries.
The cost is estimated at around $100,000, he said.
The workload of the two supervisors will also be examined, said Brennan, as they were doing many administrative or clerical duties that could be absorbed by other staff, and district officials will look into the workload allocation for custodians to see if they can figure out a way to better distribute the work.
"We want to make it as fair as possible," said Brennan. "In the end, [the review] certainly showed we're getting good value for what we're spending in the area of custodial services."
Ron Farino, president of CUPE local 606, said he had hoped for a recommendation to increase janitorial staffing.
"We're sitting just about on top of the scale as far as area and number of custodians," he said. "They're a busy group of employees. They are at a benchmark. They can't do more than they're already doing."
Nanaimo has about 70 full-time equivalent janitorial positions. To meet the average of all six districts combined, the report indicates staffing would need to increase by about four full-time positions.