Ron Saporta, Chief Operating Officer Property Services and Sustainability claims workers are being contracted out “‘to allow for flexibility as the COVID-19 situation evolves, and to ensure cost-effectiveness.’” “Flexibility” as we already know is just another term to describe employers having more control over workers. “Flexibility” means not worrying about workers reporting issues to a strong union, or having to deal with providing benefits, sick days, or other rights union workers have. And being cost-effective, well, it means exactly that. It means saving money by hiring private companies that pay workers poverty wages with low cleaning standards.
He goes on to say: “‘We will continue to deliver high quality service, adhering to consistent cleaning protocols across campus and using cleaning products approved for use against COVID-19,’expressed Saporta, also noting that the staff of the external companies is unionized.”
There are unions that actively represent workers and have historically fought for strong collective agreement rights. That’s what CUPE is. Then there are unions that sign away 10-year agreements, agreeing to provisions favourable to the employer while leaving workers in the dirt. The cleaners on St. George campus deserve strong union protection, and meeting the minimum requirement of having a union, in name only, does not mean workers are being advocated for or adequately represented. We urge the University to show us their collective agreement, and we can see for ourselves what kind of provisions they have.
U of T made a choice to hire contracted out workers. But they also had a choice to hire CUPE 3261 caretakers. COVID-19 was announced as a pandemic in early March 2020, and the University had ample time to hire more caretakers in anticipation of the September reopening. Instead, they cancelled the contracts of temporary CUPE workers and moved permanent caretakers out of 18 buildings. When faced with operational changes, U of T has the option of hiring “term” CUPE 3261 employees, who can work up to two years and receive many of the same protections as their permanent counterparts. They can also hire “temporary” employees for up to 120 days, whom although are excluded from many benefits of the collective agreement, still have decent wages, strong union representation, and a preference for applying to permanent positions. But if their employment exceeds 120 days, these employees will receive all benefits covered by the collective agreement.
These options were not considered, and U of T’s irresponsible and shameful decision to privatize cleaning services is a slap in the face for workers already struggling in this difficult COVID-19 economy, and to all community members who want the best health and safety standards on campus.
We must end contracting out. Sign and share the petition.