Letter to the editor, re: CUPE story

March 7, 2000

Dear Editor:

Objectivity seemed to be lacking in your story about the labour dispute between school support staff and the Central Okanagan School District (Janitors clean up at schools, Okanagan Sunday, March 5).

Instead of taking a look at the issues in the dispute and getting both sides of the story, this report went to great lengths advancing the argument that school support staff, custodial staff in particular, are overpaid. Even the headline leaned in that direction.

The main sources in your story were the owners of private janitorial companies, who typically pay their workers minimum wage with no benefits and have a vested interest in keeping salaries down.

Is it reasonable to compare the work of some private company that cleans up business offices after workers have gone home for the day to the work done by school custodians, who are maintaining buildings with anywhere from 250-1,200 students all day long?

The two jobs aren't comparable at all.

Your story states school custodians are paid $16.40 per hour. If you do some quick math and assume a 40-hour work week, custodians would earn $656 a week. As an annual salary, that would work out to just over $34,000 a year.

That's hardly overpaid. That's lower middle class, in fact. It's tough these days to support a family on $34,000 a year.

Perhaps the private janitorial owners should have been asked if they aren't ashamed to be paying their workers such terribly low salaries.

Your story tells me that workers in the private janitorial industry are in desperate need of a union to help them fight for some livable wages and benefits.

I also noticed that the story was written by the same reporter who strongly attacked the school workers' union in a column earlier in the week. He can hardly be considered objective when it comes to this issue.

Marie Mentz,
North Okanagan Labour Council


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