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“Our contract is going to end soon” said Mary Jane Bayangos, a cleaner at BC Hydro’s tower on Dunsmuir in downtown Vancouver, “another company will be taking over. This contract flip has been very stressful on us because it could mean risking our jobs, wages, benefits and privileges that we used to have in our old contract, which we fought hard for.”
BC Hydro, whose properties are managed by Brookfield Global Integrated Services, a multi-billion dollar real estate entity, announced in the fall of 2018 that they were retendering the cleaning contract at their properties in Surrey, Burnaby and Vancouver. In January 2019, the Crown corporation and its property manager awarded the contract to a giant non-union company, Alpine Building Maintenance.
Contract flipping is a routine practice in the cleaning industry, allowing property managers to erode the working standards of their cleaners through the retendering of contracts to the lowest bidder. Worse still, new contractors are under no obligation to rehire the existing staff, regardless of how long they may have held those jobs. While most provinces have addressed this grotesque practice through their own labour codes, the British Columbia Labour Code is still without successorship rights. Workers in B.C are forced to reapply for their jobs with the successor company under worse contracts and with lesser standards. “… its frustrating that after seven long years of service, I have to apply for the same job again, and might lose everything” Bayongos said.
Although BC Hydro, and its CEO Chris O’Riley, claim to have required the new contractor to rehire all existing staff and match current wage and benefit plans, less than three weeks from the contract change no worker has been offered a position.
Alpine Building Maintenance has met with the staff that are currently employed by GDI and represented by the Service Employees International Union. But in these meetings Alpine has repeatedly told the workers that they are a non-union company and presented mixed messages on what exactly the terms of employment will be.
On Monday February 4th, a delegation of workers attempted to deliver the signed open letter to Brookfield’s corporate office on Howe Street in downtown Vancouver only to be turned away at the door. They then met with Chris O’Riley, hand delivering the letter to him and asking him in person to step in and act to protect the workers’ jobs.
“No one is happy about this transition because it could mean that we are going to start from scratch again and everything we have fought for will be in vain. As for my co-workers, some are close to retirement age, it worries them that they might lose their jobs and it would be hard for them to find a new one” Bayangos commented.
Over 80 percent of the cleaners at BC Hydro are women and nearly 100 percent are newcomers to Canada. These workers are using their collective power to show BC Hydro, BGIS and Alpine that they cannot simply be run over. Workers are upping the planned actions in the coming weeks until their demands are met.
The Service Employees International Union, Local 2 represents 16,000 workers across Canada including over 10,000 workers in the janitorial sector.
Without successorship rights for workers in BC, another fifty GDI employees are still facing the prospect of losing their jobs at Canada Line as the result of contract flipping. Tricom, the new cleaning contractor, has informed SEIU that they will not hire any of the GDI workers.
Protrans (Canada Line)
GDI has been cleaning the Canada Line for eight years and received good reviews from Protrans. Even so, on August 20, GDI workers were given lay off letters informing them that they are losing their jobs on September 17, 2018. The new company, Tricom, has informed SEIU that they do not intend to hire any GDI workers.
Weak Labour Laws in BC!
The decision to award the cleaning contract to the lowest bidder is a clear effort to increase profit margins through union busting, which is easier to achieve thanks to BC’s weak labour laws.
The absence of successorship provisions in the BC Labour Code creates a situation where companies can exploit contract flipping by not hiring the current employees and consequently, circumvent collective bargaining agreements and lower working conditions
1) Give us our jobs back immediately
2) Respect our union and union contract
3) Better Labour Laws that don’t allow for union busting