KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – About forty people rallied at the Halifax offices of the National Research Council (NRC) on Oxford Street to protest that three unionized cleaners will no longer be working there.
The employees of GDI Integrated Facility Services will be transferred to other locations, now that the company was unsuccessful in its bid to retain the contract with the NRC.
As of Monday there will be three fewer good jobs here, because this contract to clean the NRC offices was awarded to a poverty wage non-union company,” said Diego Mendez, an organizer with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 2.
The successful bidder for the new cleaning contract, Imperial Cleaners Ltd., is not willing to retain the current employees and recognize their collective agreement. Its workers are expected to earn minimum wage and receive no benefits or sick days.
Two unionized workers had benefits and paid sick days, all of them had yearly wage increases, and the third worker was set to get paid sick days next month, said Mendez.
Tanya Kelsey, one of the affected workers, was told last week that she would no longer be cleaning at the NRC.
“Everywhere I’ve gone, I’ve done my job well. When I first got here, I had to work really hard for eight months to get this place up to par,” Kelsey wrote in an email to the Nova Scotia Advocate.
“I take pride in my work. I worked hard for the people who work in this building. You see, it’s not just about the money to me. When a place is clean and organized, it’s a happy place. A space where people can work well,” wrote Kelsey.
“If I could stay working here, with a union, with my contract, I would,” she added.
“The most scandalous part is that it’s the federal government that is behind this. It claims that it is the procurement process that is to blame, and it is not its fault,” Mendez said.
“Meanwhile Trudeau and the Liberals were elected on a platform of standing up for the middle class and those working hard to join it, but they’re doing the exact opposite.”
“The procurement process for federal properties and contracts should have a clause that requires unionized companies that pay decent wages and benefits,” Mendez added.
“The federal government is supposed to protect us, but instead it is throwing us to the wolves,” Omar Joof, a cleaner and union activist told the crowd.
“It seems to us in the cleaning industry the feeling is that we should not be paid well. We are human like any other people. We deserve dignity in labour,” he said.
NDP MLA David Wilson was one of the speakers to address the rally.
“It’s sad to see that there are no elected Members of Parliament from Nova Scotia here to show their support. The federal government should be ashamed that it treats people this way in 2016,” Wilson told the Nova Scotia Advocate.
“These are union busting tactics that we would expect to see 35 years ago, but not today,” Wilson said. “The federal government has the ability to reverse this, to do the right thing. These people aren’t getting rich. They take pride in their work and all they want is make a decent living.”