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CUPE warns cuts to summer clerical hours could cost New Westminster district

Clerical workers in the New Westminster school district got an unpleasant surprise just before the summer break, with some finding out their summer hours had been cut.
Marcel Marsolais
CUPE Local 409 president Marcel Marsolais addresses trustees at a June 30 school board meeting.

Clerical workers in the New Westminster school district got an unpleasant surprise just before the summer break, with some finding out their summer hours had been cut.

Local CUPE president Marcel Marsolais urged the school board at its last public meeting before the holidays to reconsider the move.

“When that last kid walks out the door, school isn’t closed,” he told trustees at the June 30 meeting. “There’s shutdown and then there’s one to two to three weeks start-up in some schools as well … In some cases, people are being asked to come back to work on Sept. 8, and that’s just not going to work.”

Without the shut-down and start-up time, clerical workers will be overwhelmed come September, and that could cost the district, according to CUPE executive and NWSS bookkeeper Charlene Ducholke.

“The clerical staff are responsible for all the numbers that get put through to Victoria for all the school funding throughout the whole district,” she told the Record. “If it isn’t for clerical support, we don’t get funding.”

Ducholke said it’s often clerical workers who find missing Individual Education Plans (IEP) and special education designations that result in extra funding from the province and extra support for students.

“We count those kids, we look back into their files when they come into the school,” Ducholke said. “Often an IEP is missed. We sometimes find kids’ designations when the parents don’t report their kids’ designations. You’ll get a parent who’ll move in from Surrey or somewhere else with no paperwork on their kids. They might not even have a report card.”

If left till Sept. 8, that work will have to compete with the myriad other tasks clerical staff deal with in “crazy busy” offices when schools are in session, Ducholke said.

The increasingly heavy workload carried by clerical staff is a provincewide issue, according to a 2014 CUPE report Marsolais presented at the board meeting.

Since 2009/10, there has been a 9.4 per cent decrease in clerical staff in the K-12 sector, according to the report.

Marsolais said the school board is in a tough spot because of provincial underfunding, but CUPE will fight the cuts to summer clerical hours through the union’s dispute process.

School District No. 40 human resources director Robert Weston, however, said the district has budgeted for almost 100 hours per week more clerical time across the district for next year, and the hours lost this summer will be more than made up by extra hours during the school year.

“With the additional support, all that’s required to open the schools and to close the schools, etc. will be more easily accommodated during the regular school year,” he said.

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