Employees of GDI Integrated Facility Services, Halifax’s largest commercial cleaning company, have ratified a collective agreement that will bring them historic gains including health benefits. The newly organized members of the Service Employees International Union Local 2 have won employment standards that,until now, have been unobtainable for workers in the commercial cleaning sector on the East Coast.
“We’re very proud of what we accomplished,” said cleaner Debbie Desveaux. “Working families in Halifax deserve better and we have finally taken a big step in the right direction.”
The contract includes other positive changes such as improvements to vacation pay, sick leave, overtime pay,and seniority rights.
The 300 plus cleaners covered by the contract in the Halifax Regional Municipality join nearly 5,000 cleaners across Canada united in SEIU’s Justice for Janitor’s campaign. The workers are responsible for keeping malls, office-towers, and other workplaces clean and safe.
Traditionally,commercial cleaning has been recognized as some of the most difficult and low wage work in Canada. Work in this industry is typically characterized by low, often minimum-wage pay, no benefits, and extremely arduous working conditions. Justice for Janitors has been changing that in cities like Ottawa, Toronto, Vancouver and now Halifax.
“This is just the start of a city-wide movement,” said Francine Beattie, a cleaner and member of the union Bargaining Team, “We want to bring the benefit of forming a union to all cleaners across the HRM.”
This contract represents an historic step forward for cleaners in Halifax. The Service Employees International Union plans on building on this success by helping other commercial cleaners win similar gains.