Extra cleaning with no reward

Nov. 12, 2021, 1:13 p.m. | By Celine Wu | 6 months, 2 weeks ago

A day in the life of a building service worker

Photo: Building service worker Ibrahim Kargbo cleaning in the night shift. Photo courtesy of Celine Wu.

Building service worker Ibrahim Kargbo works in the night shift along with five other workers. He checks in at 2:30 p.m. every weekday. He cleans his section and covers for fellow coworkers who are unable to work that day. For every classroom in his section, Kargbo changes the trash; tidies the room; sweeps the floor; picks up the chairs and disinfects the desks, promethean boards, materials, etc. It will be another nine long hours before he clocks out.

Even though these acts may seem insignificant, building service workers are a critical aspect to the success of Blair. However, with the already busy schedule and the additional responsibilities due to COVID-19, the job seems nearly impossible. 

Kargbo is insistent on finishing his assignments every day, no matter how long it takes. He makes sure to complete half of his work before dinner, knowing that there is additional disinfecting work to be done. After dinner, he finishes his preliminary cleaning and disinfects each room with a spray gun so that students have clean classrooms the next day.

In addition to their regular responsibilities, the service staff face additional ones this year as Building Service Manager Alain Perron explains. For instance, everyone has to clean their designated section and disinfect the touchpoints and students' desks due to COVID safety policies. 

Perron explains how the expectations for cleanliness have remained the same even with additional work and no increase in pay. "The challenge that we have is that we're expected to provide the same quality of service with additional areas to clean and additional work to do," Perron says. "We are getting paid the same, for more work."

Kargbo also feels the additional stress from the increase in work. However, because he wants to keep the students safe, Kargbo feels the pressure to complete all of his cleaning tasks, even though there is more work than in previous years. "There's no alternative. We just have to do what we have to do, which is tough," Kargbo says.

Furthermore, Perron isn’t allowed to hire more staff to help lighten the workload despite Principal Renay Johnson's strong advocacy. The number of building service workers is based on square footage of the building, without consideration of portables or the student density. "I have tried getting additional staff and we've been turned down every time," Perron says.

Despite all of Kargbo's efforts to keep the school safe and clean, he doesn't feel that the school appreciates him. "Without us, this building would not be the same. [Students] would not have a clean environment to come into. I don't think that sometimes some people think about that. Some of them don't even care if we exist or not," Kargbo says.

It is not just Kargbo that feels this way. Perron recognizes that the rest of his staff is treated in a similar way. "My staff getting the appreciation that they should get is important because they're the ones that are the rock stars. They're the ones that make the difference. They take a dirty building and turn it around every day and make it shine," Perron says.

To show more appreciation for the building service staff who spend many hard-working hours to clean the school, students should say "thank you" more often and help pick up trash — it’s a small thing, but it makes a huge difference.

Cleaning after ourselves is the simplest and most effective way of helping the building service staff. "If I go into a classroom and see all the chairs around and books on the floor, I have to take time to pick up all this stuff before I start sweeping," Kargbo says. Small acts such as putting the chairs up at the end of the day or picking up papers and recycling them can have a large impact.

If everyone contributes to keeping the building clean, the workload decreases for building services. "When we work as a team, [and] when the students and teachers do their own part, the job is easier for us, [and] we can make this building a safer environment," Kargbo says.

With such a demanding job, building service workers need us to help clean up the school. Don't be afraid to pick up a piece of trash in the hallway or during lunch. Every small action counts.

Last updated: Nov. 22, 2021, 10:05 a.m.

Tags: building services

Celine Wu. Hi everyone! My name is Celine, and I am a junior staff writer. I play volleyball for high school and MetroVBC. In my free time, I solve logic puzzles and play with my two fat cats. I also bake cakes for profit; my most popular … More »

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