Justice for Janitors

Justice for Janitors

May 28, 2014 08:00 ET

Media Advisory: Evripos Cleaners Denied Access to PWGSC Minister Diane Finley's Office but Deliver Strong Message

Janitors leave over 500 signed postcards demanding action be taken to protect Evripos employee's rights at government buildings

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwired - May 28, 2014) - Close to 50 janitors and their supporters gathered in Gatineau at noon on Tuesday outside the offices of Diane Finley, Minister of Public Works and Government Services Canada.

After providing their testimonies to the boisterous crowd, two Evripos cleaners attempted to deliver over 500 postcards expressing support for the workers and concern about Evripos Janitorial Services practices to Finley's office at 11 Laurier Street.

The cleaners were denied access by security and no representative from Finley's office would come to the lobby to greet the workers and receive the postcards. The postcards were left in the mailroom for delivery.

In April Evripos took over the cleaning contract at 700 Montreal Road, a federal building, which had unionized janitors. Evripos replaced 15 of the 17 workers with subcontractors.

"We're worried about what's happened at 700 Montreal Road," said Cynthia Caron, a cleaner and member of SEIU Local 2 working at 160 Elgin Street, Ottawa. "We don't want this happening to any workers," she said. "We stand in solidarity with all Evripos cleaners across the city."

There is speculation Evripos may take over the cleaning contract at the building where Caron works as early as July. She has been working with Eurest - Compass Group Canada, the company currently cleaning 160 Elgin, for five years. Now she is concerned about the job security of all the cleaners there.

Also represented at the rally were unionized workers from Tunney's Pasture, a complex of government buildings also in Ottawa. Negotiations with Evripos for a new contract at the site broke down when Evripos took the position that they would only sign a collective agreement that contained no benefits and a five year wage freeze.

"They should not allow cleaning companies with poor working standards to win these government contracts," said Anielka Zelaya, one of the Tunney's Pasture cleaners. "The government should ensure property managers, such as SNC-Lavalin and BLJC, who manage these government buildings, treat us with more respect," she said.

The workers have been speaking out in the community over the last few weeks and public support has been growing. In addition to 500 plus signed postcards expressing support for the janitors, a number of community leaders have made public statements supporting the cleaners. Those can be found on a new website called www.EyeonEvripos.org.

Larry Rousseau, the Regional Executive Vice-President (National Capital Region) of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, is one of those leaders and he spoke out at the rally which included a large contingent of his union's rank and file.

"We know who's doing the cleaning in our buildings," said Rousseau. "We see them every day."

"We will stand behind you," Rousseau told the cleaners. "We stand with you in solidarity."

Coincidentally, Rousseau worked at Tunney's Pasture for many years and said he always had a great experience with the cleaning staff there.

This is not the first time the cleaner's plight has been brought to the attention of PWGSC.

On May 8, 2014, Pat Martin, NDP Critic for PWGSC, wrote to Diane Finley on behalf of the cleaners raising concerns about what had happened to the workers. The correspondence to her office has gone unanswered.

"To ignore this situation is to diminish their fight for justice and equality," wrote Martin. "Public buildings in the federal jurisdictions should be setting the standard for fair compensation and working conditions."

For background information and a copy of the legal complaint filed against Evripos at the Ontario Labour Relations Board, please visit www.EyeonEvripos.org.

The Service Employees International Union is the largest and fastest growing union in North America, with 100,000 workers in Canada and two million workers across Canada, the United States and Puerto Rico.

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    Christine Bro

    Doug Nesbitt