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University of Calgary workers rally against budget cuts

Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE) members at University of Calgary held an information rally against recent budget cuts. (Courtesy AUPE) Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE) members at University of Calgary held an information rally against recent budget cuts. (Courtesy AUPE)

Caretakers at the University of Calgary held a rally and information picket outside the administration building on Thursday, protesting budget cuts they say unfairly targets lowest wage earners on campus.

“About 200 caretakers on low wages are bearing unnecessary pain from the university’s cuts,” said Justin Huseby, president of the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE) Local 052, which represents support workers at the university.

“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.

"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."

The group gathered Thursday morning and a second rally was planned for Thursday afternoon, a spokesperson said.

The union says 24 jobs have been cut in the last week, including caretaker positions, specialist advisors, operational/administration workers and technicians.

The university disputed that in a statement, however.

"Regrettably, the university has had to find efficiencies due to significant decreases in funding from the province. We are committed to minimizing the number of people affected," it read.

"No caretakers have lost their jobs as a result of the recent cuts. The University of Calgary has attempted to retain as many caretaking positions as possible through the most recent budget cuts. Sixteen full-time positions were removed from the budget, however, through attrition (retirements & resignations) and reassignment to 0.7 FTE positions no people were actually laid-off.

"The university and AUPE local 052 bargaining committees have been in collective bargaining negotiations since February 2021. Revised monetary proposals were recently exchanged and good progress is being made on non-monetary items."

The union also says the university is "unilaterally changing the caretakers’ shifts in order to squeeze $2.50 per hour in shift premiums from many caretakers."

“This was not done for any operational reason. It was done purely to take away a chunk of their already low wages,” 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.”

Another issue, according to AUPE, is the university asking for a ratio of one caretaker per 35,000 square feet, instead of one per 30,000 square feet.

“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.

“Many caretakers have to work two jobs to make ends meet. The change in shifts is forcing some to give up one of their jobs. That and the drop (in) income is causing real financial hardships." Top Stories


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