Custodians unhappy about midnight shifts in residences

Residence students in Macdonald and Laurier Halls can expect more evening activity in the buildings since two new custodial staff have begun midnight shifts this past Sunday.

“I really anticipate this as something positive,” John Regier, Housekeeping and Grounds manager for Facility Services, exclaimed. “It’s something that’s never been tried before in residence.”

“We do think that having housekeepers in the buildings during the times students are there will provide an increased service level for students,” said Diane Rawlings, Department Head, Facilities and Administration.

Of the five male custodians hired, teams of two will be sent to work in Macdonald Hall and Laurier Hall to work a midnight shift from 11:30 p.m. to 8 a.m,, and one custodian will work a day shift focusing on Macdonald, Laurier, and Vanier Halls.

“I think it will allow us to really improve the quality of caretaking in Macdonald and Laurier [Halls] over the next month or two,” said Regier, who explained that the day staff will have extra time to devote to the common areas because they will not have to clean the washrooms.

“The major benefit is that the washrooms will be clean when the students arrive in the morning,” said Rawlings.

Although the shift changes have already taken place, Rawlings explained that residence students have not been informed. “We didn’t need to announce that we are adding people on a midnight shift. We will communicate with our students as we go along.”

Laura Smith, vice-president of Macdonald Hall for the Windsor Inter Residential Council (WIRC), was unaware of the new custodians. “I haven’t heard anything about it all,” she remarked.

According to Regier, Housekeeping and Ground Services initiated the creation of the new temporary full-time shifts, which will last until the end of December or beginning of January. “[Housekeeping] presented to Residence Services about three weeks ago, and [Residence Services] seemed to think it was something they would like to try as well.”

“We both knew that we had issues around caretaking at Macdonald and Laurier [Halls], and we both petitioned for extra resources to handle it,” he said.

Members of CUPE Local 1001, which includes custodial staff, have expressed concerns over the shift changes.

“We believe that the students paid for their rooms, and that by bringing in the custodians in midnights we will be disturbing them,” said CUPE Local 1001 president, Dave Montgomery. “It’s bad management to put them on midnights.”

“John Regier has made it known that he wants an awful lot of buildings on campus on midnights. We understand that in buildings were there are no students at night,” he added.

As a former Electa Hall resident, English graduate student, Stefanie Hedge also believes that the night shift workers will disturb students.

“In first year, students are just adjusting to university life and they need to climatize and to focus on their studies. Students often chose to study at night so the disturbance will be not only to the students who are sleeping but also to the students who are studying.”

Smith disagrees with the noise concerns. “The custodians aren’t noisy when they are here in the afternoon. I don’t see how there is going to be a noise issue.”

“The way Macdonald Hall and Laurier Hall are situated, the hallway separates all the washrooms from the bedrooms,” said Regier. “It should be relatively quiet. But we have a plan that if it doesn’t work we are going to move that staff out of there and rearrange.”

“We are going to monitor [the noise],” added Rawlings. “We don’t believe that it will be highly intrusive. But we will be working with our residence life staff for ensuring that we get feedback [from students].”

Regier believes that some of the concerns over the midnight shift is stemming from custodians that are worried about being forced to work at night. “I have no intention of moving anyone who is currently on a day shift to a night shift,” Regier assured.

“We have a list of people who really want to go on midnights,” Montgomery said, dismissing Regier’s claim. “We don’t have a problem with midnights, but not in residence.”

One thing that everyone seems to agree on is that both residences require extra caretaking. “The buildings are a little down they need to be cleaned better,” said Montgomery.

“There is a need for more cleanliness in the entire campus,” added Montgomery, who claimed that suggestions for more custodial staff in the CAW Student Centre and Leddy Library have been ignored.

“I know if I were in Macdonald or Laurier [Halls] that I would like to wake up and go to a clean washroom,” said Regier.

“I was a first-year student and I know what happens in these buildings,” said Smith, who has lived in Macdonald Hall for the past two years.

“If they start cleaning at 11:30 [p.m.] and people are still partying and making a mess until two or three in morning it’s kind of pointless,” said Smith of the midnight shifts. “It’s just going to get messy again. People party all night.”

“But I do agree something needs to be done in the morning,” added Smith, who claimed that in the morning the floors are sticky and the bathrooms are “destroyed.”

Montgomery, on the other hand, is also worried that student privacy will become a problem with the changes. “Our other concern is that it’s four male custodians,” said Montgomery. “There are privacy issues here.” Montgomery feels that female students who are not properly dressed at night may run over to use the bathroom when a male worker is cleaning.

“I do see a concern for privacy. I don’t think that many students will find it an issue but I believe that some will,” said Smith, adding, “I particularly don’t have an issue with it.”

When asked whether there are plans to extend or bring back this new service, Regier responded, “Not in the short term. Even if it worked out beautifully, we work in a unionized environment…an it’s not something we would entertain lightly.”

He said, however, that if it works out well, Housekeeping and Grounds Services would reassess the midnight shift for the next year or two.

Regier concluded, “If you don’t try anything new you can never be better than you were yesterday.”