HALIFAX, NS – Janitors deserve respect. Janitors deserve dignity. Janitors deserve protection from unnecessary and arbitrary job loss. Black workers must not continue being the “Last Hired and First Fired”.
Together we must rise to end racial injustice and demand a better future for the people who keep our communities and workplaces clean.
Recently the contract for cleaning Founders Square changed hands. As a result, all the cleaners of African descent were let go. Workers were then completely ignored by both Armour Group and Deep Down Cleaning Services when they reached out to discuss continued employment.
After being ignored, the Black janitors went ahead with announcing a human rights complaint alleging discrimination. Armour Group retaliated by ending the contract a week early, banning these workers from the building, and smearing the quality of their work in the media. This resulted in daily pickets endorsed by a wide coalition of community, labour, political, and faith groups including the African United Baptist Association of Nova Scotia, an umbrella organization for 19 churches.
In a shameful display of indifference, neither Armour Group or Deep Down Cleaning have even bothered to reach out to these workers or engage in any dialogue. Instead, Deep Down has suggested that they plan on continuing their practice of discarding entire groups of workers arbitrarily in future contract take-overs. This is guaranteed to result in more sites of conflict and more disrupted lives in our community.
Building managers such as Armour Group must operate in a manner that is respectful of the lives, livelihoods, and dignity of their contracted cleaning staff. Colluding with incoming contractors to discard entire groups of workers is not only immoral, it can also so easily open the door for racial discrimination and other prejudicial hiring practices.
It is time for Nova Scotia to enact legislation to prevent injustices like this from re-occurring. The long and sordid history of racial injustice in this province demands policy changes that break cycles of economic dispossession still at play today.
Given that janitorial workers are disproportionately Black, Nova Scotia needs to address this as both a racial justice and an economic justice issue and follow the example of other jurisdictions that have enacted successor rights to give workers much-needed protections.
It is time for us all to treat janitorial workers with respect, and honour the vital role they play in our society. We can do that by creating systemic change that both safeguards against racial injustice and helps lift hundreds of families in our community out of poverty. The time is now to transition this industry into a place where people can once again find good, stable, and dignified work.
Together we rise for racial and economic justice. We rise to affirm that Black Workers Matter, that Janitors are not Disposable, and we unite our voices to call on…
-> Armour Group to adopt a responsible contractor policy.
-> Deep Down Cleaning Services to commit to changing how they operate when taking over contracts.
-> Nova Scotia to pass legislation that gives workers greater stability and protections against arbitrary job loss through contract flipping
-> All levels of government to pass responsible contractor policies and build social justice riders into all lease agreements with property managers where government is a major tenant.