School janitors overworked because of H1N1 fears | National Union of Public and General Employees

School janitors overworked because of H1N1 fears

Lone janitors cannot do all the extra bathroom and desk cleaning now being demanded of them.

St. John's (16 Sept. 2009) - Janitors are being asked to perform an impossible amount of work to prevent the spread of the H1N1 flu virus in Newfoundland and Labrador schools.

The Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Public and Private Employees (NAPE/NUPGE) says janitors have been assigned to clean bathrooms more often and desks more than once a day at schools where children eat in the classroom.

"That requires somebody to put a spray, wait 30 seconds, [then] put the cloth on [each desk]," says NAPE president Carol Furlong.

"Then you have to clean it with water as well, and you have to do that a couple of times a day – that's every desk in the school. That's a significant portion of your day in addition to all of your other duties, because that's a new function."

Furlong says normal duties have been multiplied in the process.

“This will ultimately defeat the purpose as these workers will not be able to perform what is required of them. It will result either in having the work done haphazardly in an effort to keep up with the demand, or will see the staff collapse on the job. It simply cannot be done,” she says.

“Caretakers have specific duties they carry out to ensure the cleanliness of schools. Duties such as cleaning desks are time-consuming and are usually carried out on a weekly basis. Now, caretakers are being told to clean the desks every day. It isn't so much the type of work that concerns us, but the fact that such time-consuming tasks now have to be done in addition to their regular full workload. Dedicating time to this and other extra duties will compromise their ability to maintain cleanliness in other areas.”

Furlong says NAPE realizes that enhanced efforts are necessary to deal with the H1N1 threat.

"The simple solution is to hire additional staff, not to put in place a policy that they know full well cannot be carried out. NAPE is calling on the school boards to take into consideration the need to hire extra staff to get the job done properly to keep our schools a clean environment for our children.”

Many of the province's schools have only one janitor.


The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE


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