Janitors protest loss of cleaning contract at Halifax TD Centre

Health benefits for cleaners and caretakers represented under the Service Employees International Union Local 2 kick in this month, and the union representing them says the TD Centre hired a non-unionized company to replace them.

Union says property managers for TD Centre chose to change cleaners just as health benefits kick in

Representatives presenting cleaners protested outside the TD Centre at noon on Friday. (CBC)

The union representing cleaners working in the TD Centre in downtown Halifax are accusing the building's property management company of going with a non-unionized cleaning company just as the current janitors' health benefits are kicking in.

Dozens of people — including members of the Service Employees International Union, Local 2 and Janitors for Justice — held a rally in Grade Parade at noon on Friday, marching with placards around the TD Centre on George Street.

"It is really frustrating to see that the workers that make the place clean and presentable to others are not getting the benefits," says Omar Joof, who spoke on behalf of the group Janitors for Justice.

"Workers, particularly in the cleaning industry, feel isolated and vulnerable."

Joof, a cleaner who works for GDI Integrated Facility Services, which has been providing janitorial services at TD Centre, says people are worried they will lose hours and earnings now that the company has lost the contract for that building.

Five unionized workers will be affected by the loss of the contract, said Joof.

​No one from Compass Commercial Reality Ltd., which manages the TD Centre, was available to comment.

Tenants of the building include TD Canada Trust, Foreign Affairs and Trade and Development Canada and the Canada Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board.

Joof says most cleaners and caretakers work for minimum wage and his colleagues have been looking forward to the security of having health benefits after working for many years without.

"It has just started to improve but for the past years there has been a lot of concern because the chances of workers in the cleaning industry being fired are very high," he said.

You can easily be hired, but you can so easily be fired too."

Joof says the provincial government should enact stronger legislation to protect workers from exploitation.  

A general manager from GDI Integrated Facility Services declined to comment on why it no longer provides cleaning services for the TD Centre. Deep Down Cleaning, which has been hired to do the work, also declined to comment.

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