As recently as 2007 hundreds of janitors in Toronto were trapped in elaborate subcontracting schemes that denied workers basic protections covered in the Employment Standards Act such as WSIB coverage, EI, vacation time, and CPP contributions . There were cases where workers were not even making minimum wage. Medical benefits was a dream for the vast majority.
Thanks to Justice for Janitors, thousands of workers and their families in Toronto are enjoying benefits and modest but important gains in pay. By the time the current City-Wide contract expires in 2016, no cleaner will be making less than $11.85 per hour for light duty work and $12.95 per hour for heavy duty work with benefits. Those without benefits qualify for higher wages ($12.15 and $13.40 respectively). Others unionized workers who have had a union for many years have better compensation.
“I’m so happy about the benefits and everything we’re getting,” said Anne Maxwell a Toronto area cleaner. Maxwell had been working in the same building since the mid 90’s, yet she was only receiving 4% vacation pay. That changed thanks to J4J as Maxwells’ vacation pay doubled to 8%; she will be earning 10% before long.
Janitors in Toronto were looking to build on their success in negotiations in 2013. They did just that by earning increases in pay and improving their benefit by winning a dental plan.
The effort to increase union density in the city is ongoing. “We need to make sure every cleaner in the city who is not in a Union is able to join the Justice for Janitors movement,” said Gilda Mamaril, a Toronto area cleaner and a J4J leader. “The more of us that are in the Union, the better position we’ll be in to make more improvements in 2016.”
Currently there are over 2,500 J4J members in the Toronto area.