Justice For Janitors @ Founders Square: Black Workers Matter!

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.

Front page halifax action

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.

Leave a comment

SEIU Local 2 marches in Toronto, Ottawa and Halifax Labour Day parades

Toronto Labour Day Parade photos



Ottawa Labour Day Parade photos


Halifax Labour Day Parade photos


Leave a comment

Janitors and supporters rally at the NRC in Halifax

Janitors and supporters rally at the NRC at 1411 Oxford St., in Halifax.

Janitors and supporters rally at the NRC at 1411 Oxford St., in Halifax.

About 40 janitors and their supporters held a rally today at the National Research Council in Halifax calling on the Prime Minister to practice what he preaches. They are denouncing the termination of unionized cleaning positions that provide yearly pay increases, paid sick days and benefits. The NRC, an agency of the Federal Government, will be replacing them with a non-union contractor that pays poverty wages and doesn’t provide employment benefits.

Omar Joof

Justice for Janitors leader, Omar Joof addresses the rally at the NRC.

“It’s time the Prime Minister and the Liberals practice what they preach,” said Omar Joof, a Halifax area cleaner and leader in the Justice for Janitors movement. They should help create good jobs in Halifax – not destroy them.”

“The Federal Liberals promised to stand-up for the middle-class and those working hard to join them,” said MLA Dave Wilson, the NDP Nova Scotia House Leader. “Replacing decent unionized cleaning jobs at the NRC with a poverty wage contractor is not a very prudent approach to fulfill that promise.”

The cleaning contract at 1411 Oxford St. was recently awarded to Imperial Cleaners Limited through a competitive bidding process. They take over the contract on Monday. The cleaners’ union, the Service Employees International Union Local 2, reached out to the federal agency earlier this week to communicate that the NRC should require the new contractor to offer employment to the current employees at 1411 Oxford St. and recognize their collective agreement.

MLA and NDP Nova Scotia House Leader, Dave Wilson.

MLA and NDP Nova Scotia House Leader, Dave Wilson.

In an email response to SEIU, the NRC has said that they have “no capacity to dictate who the bidder hires beyond the terms of the Request for Proposal.  There is nothing in the Request for Proposal requiring the winning bidder to hire the existing workers.”

SEIU points out this is a problem – the government’s bidding process should consider working conditions and labour rights and not simply award contracts to the lowest bidder. The union has reached out to the three ministers responsible for the NRC: Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science, and Bardish Chagger, Minister of Small Business and Tourism.

Tanya Kelsey, one of three workers displaced as a result of the contract change, learned last week she’d be transferred to another site. She was approaching her one-year anniversary at the location. “I worked hard for the people in this building,” she said. “It’s not just about the money to me. When a place is clean and organized, it’s a happy place and a space where people can work well.” Kelsey said if she could stay working at the NRC building, with a union, and with her collective bargaining agreement, she would.

As per their union collective agreement, Tanya and her co-workers have been offered work at other locations by their employer, GDI Integrated Facility Services. However the replacement janitors at the NRC will most likely make poverty wages, won’t have benefits or paid sick days, nor will they have the benefit of a union contract.

“The fact is, that as of right now, there are three fewer good jobs in Halifax and the Federal government is responsible for that,” said Joof.

J4J Member Tanya Kelsey and SEIU Local 2 - Nova Scotia President, Jackie Swaine.

J4J Member Tanya Kelsey and SEIU Local 2 – Nova Scotia President, Jackie Swaine.

Leave a comment

Support Affordable Internet for All

In this day and age, access to the internet has become a necessity for people to get ahead. The high cost of service, however, severely affects access to opportunities in the job market, in school, and in many other aspects of daily life. ACORN Canada members are demanding $10/month high-speed internet for low-income families as part of our Internet for All campaign.

                                                            Webstory photo

ACORN members strongly feel that internet access is essential and that the government can help make this a reality for thousands of low-income families who cannot afford high speed internet at home. StatsCan reports that 42% of households in the lowest income quartile of $30,000 or less do not have home internet access, compared to only 2% in the highest income quartile. This “digital divide” excludes low-income individuals and families from what the United Nations now considers to be a human right, comparable with freedom of speech.

After two years of organizing for affordable internet rates, 10 ACORN Canada members will be presenting at a CRTC public hearing on April 14 about internet access.

They will tell their stories about why low-income families deserve equal opportunities to succeed in the digital economy. Low-income earners need cheap internet access to look for work, for their kids to do homework, and to access government services and forms. We are almost there to make affordable internet for low-income families in Canada a reality, and we need to keep the pressure on!



Sign ACORN’s petition to support affordable internet access for low-income Canadians.


By signing, we will be able to show the CRTC that Canadians want real change to close the digital divide.

Leave a comment

While Bank makes Billions, Janitors get the Boot after Health benefits Kick In

J4J takes to the streets with allies to protest loss of union jobs at TD Centre

Posted by Justice For Janitors SEIU Local 2 on Friday, July 3, 2015








1 Comment

In the News: Cleaners and Supporters Rally in Halifax


Media Coverage

CBC Story Image

CBC News CoverageHerald Story Image

Global News Coverage

HFX Media Co-op

MarketWired Advisoy


See the photos!

Leave a comment

J4J Steward Trainings & Meetings Announced in Cities Across the Country

Leave a comment

CleanMark workers at the Dartmouth Crossing Cineplex in Negotiations

The new members are excited to join the Halifax GDI cleaners who ratified their first collective agreement last summer. The GDI workers improved their working conditions, making it easier to make ends meet. Now negotiations are underway to ensure that CleanMark workers also win improvements and respect.

As the Justice for Janitors campaign grows in the Halifax area and word spreads about the J4J difference, more and more cleaners are thinking about how their own conditions at work could be changed for the better.

Change is happening! If you’re not part of J4J yet, don’t hesitate and contact your regional organizer today.

Leave a comment

Join J4J Halifax

Leave a comment

Important Advances Nationwide in 2013

2013 was an important year for J4J from Halifax to Vancouver, and everywhere in between. Workers won important improvements in all these cities.


Leave a comment