SEIU Canada (Service Employees International Union - Canada)

SEIU Canada (Service Employees International Union - Canada)

May 20, 2009 16:44 ET

Omni Janitor Fired Then Rehired After Legal Action Threatened

Questionable conduct leads to launching of new website as workers continue to fight for improvements

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA--(Marketwire - May 20, 2009) - Omni Facility Services (Omni) workers in the Greater Vancouver Area have been uniting in an effort to improve their wages and working conditions. Low wages, extreme workloads and harassment are all typical aspects of work in the cleaning industry. The janitors have been met with strong resistance by management.

"I've never thought anything bad of anyone," says Surjit Gill, one of the janitors' leaders. He has worked for the company for the last seven years. "But when I was a supervisor making $13 per hour I didn't think it was fair for the other workers who were making so much less." Gill decided it was important for the workers to unite to win improvements.

The problems for Gill commenced shortly after appearing on the Justice for Janitors website, a movement which is dedicated to improving the lives of janitors by raising industry standards.

A week after his photo appeared on www.JusticeforJanitors.org, one of Gill's managers called him to let him know she had seen the picture. She also made it clear another manager was aware of his union activities. Gill knew he was being monitored, but that didn't dissuade him. "What I enjoy about work is the teamwork and the companionship that arises from working together," he says. Helping his fellow janitors unite to make improvements feels like a natural fit for him.

Soon after that meeting, Gill left on his scheduled vacation. When he returned in early March, he learned he was out of a job. His testimony is available on www.EyeonOmni.org, the new watchdog website launched by the Service Employees International Union Local 2 (SEIU).

In early April, Gill notified Omni he was preparing a legal complaint with SEIU. Soon after that, he was on payroll once again. It is illegal to retaliate against a worker for uniting his or her workplace and forming a union.

Today Gill is back on payroll and has been working eight hour shifts on a regular basis. However, he has not been given a permanent place to work, bounces from site to site, and he missed five full weeks of work before being reinstated.

"I know that if it wasn't for the work we're doing to bring all the janitors together to have a united voice, I wouldn't be working any hours at all," he says.

The Service Employees International Union is the largest and fastest growing union in North America, with 100,000 workers in Canada and 2 million workers across Canada, the United States and Puerto Rico.

Contact Information

  • SEIU Local 2
    Anu Sharma
    604-817-4517