Janitors at Uptown Shopping Centre voted to strike April 20, citing increased risk from the pandemic, minimum wage pay and no paid sick days. (Black Press Media file photo)

Janitors at Uptown Shopping Centre voted to strike April 20, citing increased risk from the pandemic, minimum wage pay and no paid sick days. (Black Press Media file photo)

Janitors at Uptown Shopping Centre in Saanich vote to strike

Workers say they’re working in high-risk conditions with near minimum wage pay

Fed up with low wages and high-risk pandemic conditions, janitors at Uptown Shopping Centre have voted to strike.

The group of workers unionized with SEIU Local 2 in June 2020 and since then has been demanding its employer, Everclean Facility Services, provide workers with a living wage and paid sick days. Currently, janitors are paid $15.25 per hour, 65 cents above B.C.’s minimum wage.

Now, the group is also arguing the pandemic has increased their workload and risk of contracting COVID-19.

“If I had been cleaning the lobby prior to the pandemic, you’d clean the windows, vacuum carpet, mop the floor,” said Lance Szpradowski, a janitor tasked with cleaning the mall’s lobbies, in a statement “But now we have to sanitise all of the touch surfaces, including door handles, elevators, crash bars, door frames. It’s what is needed to keep mall visitors safe.”

READ ALSO: Saanich firefighters not prioritized for COVID-19 vaccine despite working on frontlines

Another worker, Hannah Clearwater, expressed the higher risk they’re facing.

“We are cleaners working in highly trafficked public spaces in the middle of the third wave, but we aren’t being treated like we’re essential by Everclean at all,” she said.

According to the statement, workers feel nervous about striking during such a precarious time, but feel they’ve been left no other option.

“There is so much work to do. But we haven’t seen any increase in hours or pay. Something has got to give,” Szpradowski said.

Black Press Media has reached out to Everclean Facility Services for comment. A strike date is yet to be set.

READ ALSO: Victoria hits record-breaking number of monthly COVID-19 flight exposures


 

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