Category Archives: Justice & Dignity for Cleaners

City Council speaks up for cleaners


April 12, 2012
City Council speaks up for cleaners, votes to review contracting out of cleaning services

Toronto, ON – The Justice & Dignity for Cleaners campaign won an important victory at City Hall yesterday when Council voted 29-12 to prevent City Manager from awarding contracts for cleaning service without Council approval.

The decision affirms Council authority over reviewing and extending the cleaning contract for police stations already awarded to Impact Cleaning by City Management in February this year. Impact Cleaning is the same company that was previously found in violation of the City’s Fair Wage Policy and underpaying vulnerable workers, including undocumented workers.

For months, hundreds of City of Toronto cleaners have been facing the threat of job loss as they began to receive notice that cleaning in City Facilities would be contracted out. For cleaners in the public and private sectors, it makes a difference to see City Council come to terms with the reality of contract cleaning, which includes routine exploitation of vulnerable workers and layers of subcontracting that help cleaning companies evade their obligations as employers.

“Newcomers and immigrants are the most vulnerable people in this city. It’s not only about money, it’s making sure that the companies we are dealing with respect their employees,” said Councillor Ana Bailão during the Council meeting. Bailão formerly worked as a cleaner when she was a newcomer and said she was well aware of the industry’s practices.

City of Toronto cleaners make roughly $40,000 a year plus benefits, and many Councillors argued that cleaners deserved a decent wage for the difficult work they do. As a contrast, cleaners working for private contractors usually make close to minimum wage and struggle with multiple jobs to support their families.

“We welcome this decision from City Council because it was the right thing to do. We have been asking the City to lead by example, as a good employer, and we are happy that our Councillors agree,” said Winnie Ng, co-chair of Good Jobs for All. Ng and others launched the Justice and Dignity for Cleaners campaign in September 2011, asking Councillors to vote on proposed job cuts instead of having City managers make backroom decisions.


For further information:
Preethy Sivakumar – 416 937 9378
Coordinator, Good Jobs for All

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Fired Cleaners Demand Reinstatement and Respect at Rally in Toronto

Two dozen people rallied earlier today outside 8 King St. East in Toronto. They called on the building’s new cleaning contractor, Amphora Maintenance Services, to reinstate terminated employees and respect their wishes to have a voice at work.

“With the previous cleaning company we won a small raise, better vacation pay and we were going to get benefits this summer,” a statement by Cleria Ezequiel reads. “Now not only have we lost all these things, we’ve lost our jobs.”

Earlier this month nine cleaners, including one who had been at the location for 10 years, were terminated without notice when they showed up for work. The workers say an Amphora Maintenance Services representative told them there were no positions available for them.

“We reject this race to the bottom where employers like Amphora are allowed to treat workers like this,” said Preethy Sivakumar, coordinator of the Good Jobs for All coalition.
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Consequences of outsourcing city cleaning Jobs

By Robert Dryden and Jim Stanford

Canadians were justifiably outraged when Electro-Motive, owned by Caterpillar, threatened its London, Ont., workers with a 50 per cent pay cut and then left Canada in search of cheaper labour in the U.S.

In Toronto, a similar story is unfolding, only it’s city council — not an industrial giant — that poses the threat.

City council is considering whether to outsource up to 1,000 civic cleaning and janitorial positions to low-wage private-sector contractors. Pay rates for the hard work of keeping our public facilities clean and safe would face a Caterpillar-style reduction of as much as 50 per cent.

Full story Toronto Star

City’s plans to contract out 1000 cleaning jobs should be stopped, say Hulchanski and other Toronto academics

On Feb 16, 2012 David Hulchanski and Grace-Edward Galabuzi presented an Open Letter asking Council to stop contracting out cleaning jobs. The letter has been signed by 100 leading academics from the University of Toronto, Ryerson and York University. Citing the alarming growth of poverty and precarious, low-paying jobs in Toronto, the letter urges Council to protect good jobs instead of allowing City Management to make short-sighted decisions that will harm the working poor and already hurting communities.

On Feb 8, 2012, City Management awarded one of the first contracts to Impact cleaning, a company notorious for violating the City’s Fair Wage Policy and underpaying immigrant workers and undocumented workers. The open letter states that the decision to contract out hundreds of good jobs will have detrimental long-term consequences, deepening the current job crisis and affecting immigrants and women the most.

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Stop contracting out Toronto cleaning jobs, academics say

Toronto must stop contracting out municipal cleaning jobs to stem the alarming growth of working poor in the city, academics and community leaders say.

“Turning good jobs into poverty wage jobs will only deepen the current job crisis,” they say in an open letter to Mayor Rob Ford and council being released Thursday. “Toronto’s budget issues should not be resolved at the expense of these cleaners, their families and their neighbourhoods.”

Almost 1,000 cleaning jobs in municipal buildings, police stations, daycares, social housing and long-term care facilities are at risk, they say.

The call comes in the wake of a recent report that shows more than 70,700 workers in Toronto are struggling to get by on poverty-level wages, a number that jumped by 8.2 per cent between 2000 and 2005.

It also comes a week after the Toronto Police Service signed a $1.7 million one-year contract with a private cleaning company, eliminating 100 jobs with benefits that paid about $20 an hour. Private cleaners typically earn the minimum wage of $10.25 an hour and receive few benefits.

“A well-functioning city needs all types of people, including people who maintain our civic buildings,” said University of Toronto professor David Hulchanski, among about 100 academics who signed the open letter.

“To replace them with people who earn half as much a year, with no benefits is just another example of how governments are increasing the social divide in our city,” added Hulchanski, a contributor to last weekend’s groundbreaking Metcalf Foundation report, “ ‘The Working Poor’ in the Toronto Region: Who they are, where they live and how trends are changing.”

The city’s community development committee will discuss the issue of low-wage work next week.

Rachael Rocca, 35, had hoped a cleaning job with Toronto Community Housing would be her ladder out of poverty.

In the summer of 2010, the single mother of three was among 30 tenants chosen to participate in a year-long apprenticeship program to train for a permanent position paying about $21 an hour, with benefits.

Eager to build a better future for her family, Rocca used her $14.50 hourly apprenticeship earnings to move out of her subsidized three-bedroom townhouse in Lawrence Heights and into a three-bedroom market-rent apartment in Weston.

But last summer Toronto Community Housing cancelled the apprenticeship program and instead of hiring Rocca and the others, continued to use a private cleaning company for about 100 positions that used to be filled by staff.

“We were devastated,” Rocca recalled. “We were all crying. We had all worked so hard and had been told if we did well that we would be hired.”

Rocca, who now receives employment insurance, has seen her $980 biweekly paycheques cut by half. She struggles to pay her $980 monthly rent.

“I needed that job for my children and for my financial security,” she said. “Now I have nothing.”

Source: Toronto Star

City Council vote on Cleaners’ Jobs

On Jan 17, 2012, City Council considered changes to Mayor Ford’s budget as well as an omnibus motion by Councillor Josh Colle to reverse many of the proposed cuts to services that residents depend on. A majority of the Councillors supported Councillor Colle’s motion and it passed with 23 votes for the motion and 21 against. However, a motion from Councillor Joe Mihevic to defer contracting out cleaners jobs failed.

The motion and the votes are listed below. If your Councillor voted in support of the cleaners, please call them and thank them for your support. The Councillors who voted against it need to be reminded that these cleaning jobs are Good Jobs that hold many of our communities together. Outsourcing up a 1,000 of these jobs could cause ripple effects that hurt our City. For more information about the Justice and Dignity for Cleaners campaign, click here.


That City Council defer consideration of contracting out of custodial services in Facilities Management and Real Estate Services and instead be considered along with the report on the final 2011 Year-End operating variance with the offset of $1.5M to come from the Tax Stabilization Reserve.

1. Maria Augimeri
2. Ana Bailao
3. Shelley Carroll
4. Raymond Cho
5. Josh Colle
6. Janet Davis
7. Glenn De Baeremaeker
8. Sarah Doucette
9. John Filion
10. Paula Fletcher
11. Mary Fragedakis
12. Mike Layton
13. Gloria Lindsay Luby
14. Pam McConnell
15. Mary-Margaret McMahon
16. Joe Mihevic
17. Gord Perks
18. Anthony Peruzza
19. Adam Vaughan
20. Kristyn Wong-Tam
1. Paul Ainslie
2. Michelle Berardinetti
3. Gary Crawford
4. Vincent Crisanti
5. Mike Del Grande
6. Frank Di Giorgio
7. Doug Ford
8. Rob Ford
9. Mark Grimes
10. Doug Holyday
11. Norman Kelly
12. Chin Lee
13. Giorgio Mammoliti
14. Josh Matlow
15. Peter Milczyn
16. Denzil Minnan-Wong
17. Frances Nunziata
18. Cesar Palacio
19. John Parker
20. James Pasternak
21. Jaye Robinson
22. David Shiner
23. Karen Stintz
24. Michael Thompson

Absent: Ron Moeser

City cleaners in safety suits bring message to Councillors at Monday’s rally

Toronto, ON – City cleaners facing possible job cuts made their voices heard outside City Hall Monday night at the Rally for Toronto. As City Council continues to discuss proposed cuts, cleaners asked Councillors to consider the far-reaching implications of cutting hundreds, if not thousands, of living-wage jobs.

Cleaners wore protective suits, goggles, and gas masks that they require to complete their day to day duties. “We’re here not just as residents, but also as cleaners. Many residents don’t actually see us and aren’t aware of the kind of risks and dangers we take on in our jobs. We’re dressed like this to give them a look into our everyday work,” said Trish O’Brien, a Toronto Police Station cleaner.

“Talking about cutting our jobs sends the wrong message. If I lose my job, it affects my family’s livelihood, but if you cut hundreds of jobs, then that affects communities, and eventually our entire city,” said O’Brien. She was one of speakers at Monday’s Rally for Toronto organized by a coalition of Toronto organizations and groups opposing cuts to city services and good jobs.

“We have asked City Councillors to consider the effect of cutting living-wage jobs on the economic and social health of our city,” said Winnie Ng, co-chair of the Good Jobs for All coalition. Ng and others launched the Justice and Dignity for Cleaners campaign earlier this month, asking Councillors to vote on proposed job cuts instead of having City managers make backroom decisions.

“The rally’s main message to Councillors was ‘Build Toronto-Don’t Destroy it,’ and taking away the income of people, many of whom live in already poor neighbourhoods, is not going to help build and grow our city,” added Ng, who also spoke at the rally.

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Justice and Dignity for Cleaners

Hundreds of City cleaners’ jobs may be contracted out without a chance for our elected Councillors to weigh in and vote on this issue. The cleaners at the Toronto Police Service are the first group under attack. Their jobs may be cut and handed over to private cleaning companies. Other cleaners, like those at Toronto Community Housing, have also been given notice.

Justice & Dignity for Cleaners Campaign goals

  • Establish accountability at City Council for decisions about possible job cuts
  • Protect cleaners’ jobs
  • Create awareness about the human impact of contracting out good jobs by telling the stories of cleaners whose work is usually not visible
  • Create awareness about the overall social and economic impact on our city
  • Recruit more cleaners and allies to be prepared for future fights against job cuts

Why Are Cleaners Jobs’ Threatened?

A budget crisis of $774 million has been manufactured by the Ford administration. Using this crisis, Ford and his supporters at City Council will attempt to privatize many of the city’s services and systematically attack city jobs that pay a living wage. KPMG, a private consulting company, was hired by the Mayor Ford to conduct a Core Service Review and propose many of these cuts.

While the public is focused on the devastating cuts to services, City staff managers are being directed by the Ford agenda to push through job cuts that are not part of the Core Service Review.

The Reality of Contract Cleaning

For decades, private cleaning companies have exploited cleaners – particularly women and immigrants – by paying them poverty wages. Cleaners in the private sector usually work multiple jobs just to keep their families afloat. Many have worked hard to organize themselves and improve their working standards. By paying our cleaners a decent wage with health benefits and providing safety training and job security, our City has defended good working standards for a healthy city.

Good Jobs and the Health of our City

Toronto already has too many poverty jobs. Creating more poverty jobs could have serious, long term consequences. If we want to leave a growing and vibrant city to the next generation of residents, we must start with defending good jobs.

The Ford administration is trying to circumvent democratic and transparent process by directing City managers to make the final decisions affecting hundreds of jobs. Decisions that could impact the overall economic health of our city should be made by elected City Councillors, not City managers. If City Council does not act on this issue, these job cuts will go through. This would also set the stage for many more cuts and layoffs.

City Councillors must take responsibility for supporting living-wage jobs in our city instead of allowing secret, backroom processes that could turn Toronto into a low-wage city.

Good Jobs for All, a community-labour coalition, is organizing this campaign to call
on City Councillors to make the decisions we elected them to make. City Councillors should insist on democratic and transparent decision-making at City Council.

The campaign features a team of City cleaners and private sector cleaners who are supporting a decent wage for all cleaners in every sector.

The Campaign Initiatives Include:

  • Lobbying City Councillors to ensure that these cuts come to a vote at City Council
  • Distributing flyers and posters that targets residents in wards where Councillors have not taken a stand on the issue. Ensuring that Councillors take a side.

Click on the button below to contact your City Councillor now.

If you would like to download the campaign flyer: English | Spanish.

Contact us at for more information.

Justice and Dignity for Cleaners: Nezrene Edwards

The Mayor of Toronto wants to outsource the jobs of hundreds of city cleaners and turn them over to low-wage contractors. There are already too many jobs in Toronto that pay poverty wages. Good Jobs for All wants Toronto to move forward instead of backward. We think cleaners in every sector deserve to make a living wage.

As a city, we can stand up for good jobs that will not just raise standards for workers, but also strengthen our neighbourhoods and communities. Contact your City Councillor and tell them that we should defend good jobs in our city.

Click on the button below to contact your City Councillor now.

Nezrene Edwards

“For 20 years, I have been a Toronto housing cleaner. The residents here know me and I know my work makes a difference for them. Every morning, I come in and clean the grounds, the buildings, compact the garbage, hose the floor to clear maggots and bugs. It’s not pretty, and I am responsible for work that many people would just find really difficult to do. We get shots to prevent things like hepatitis because there is a real risk of getting sick. People need to understand that just because we pick up dirt doesn’t mean we should be treated like dirt. We deserve to be treated with dignity.

I feel bad for some of the cleaners that private contractors bring in while me or my colleagues are on vacation. They get really low pay for doing difficult work. It’s just not fair because all the money ends up in the contractor’s pockets when the cleaners are basically making minimum wage.”

There are already too many jobs in Toronto that pay poverty wages.

In some cases, the companies involved in contract cleaning have grown immensely rich from their operations. Some are in the Fortune 500, with revenues in the billions. Others are cut-throat operations that have a history of exploiting immigrants and violating employment standards.

But there is more at stake here than poor wages. The plan to outsource jobs will start in police stations, where the question of security has always been a major concern. As outsourcing spreads into other facilities such as long-term care, any attempt by companies to cut corners can have a major impact on the health or safety of vulnerable residents.

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