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‘Hypocritical and shameful’: AUPE says U of C unfairly targeting ‘vulnerable workers’

A rally at the University of Calgary aimed to shine the spotlight on working conditions for support staff Mar. 17, 2022. A rally at the University of Calgary aimed to shine the spotlight on working conditions for support staff Mar. 17, 2022.

The Alberta Union of Provincial Employees says budget cuts at the University of Calgary are unfairly targeting the most vulnerable workers on campus.

The union said Thursday the university cut 24 jobs in the last week, including caretakers, specialist advisors, operational/administration workers and technicians.

Read more: Alberta Health Services proposing wage rollbacks up to 11% for some health workers

Jobs, the union says, typically held by the lowest-paid and most vulnerable workers.

“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 Justin Huseby, president of AUPE Local 052, which represents support workers at the university.

“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.”

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Workers and supporters held a rally and information picket Thursday.

Read more: Front-line workers warn of drug overdoses rising on and off Alberta streets

Huseby said working conditions have also changed, with one caretaker being tasked with cleaning 35,000 sq. ft instead of 30,000 sq. ft, as well as shift changes that eliminate an overnight premium of $2.50 per hour.

“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,” said 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.”

A statement from the university says it has had to “find efficiencies due to significant decreases in funding from the province,” adding it’s committed to minimizing the number of people affected.

The school adds while 16 full-time positions were removed from the budget, nobody in that department was actually laid off because of attrition and reassignment.

The University of Calgary added bargaining between the two sides continues, with monetary proposals being recently exchanged and good progress being made on non-monetary items.

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