Janitors represented by SEIU 2 in Vancouver

Bee-Clean Building Maintenance janitors in British Columbia voted to ratify their first collective agreement on Monday. The janitors, who unionized with SEIU Local 2, came to a tentative agreement on Oct. 30, just two days before they were set to picket various locations across the British Columbia's Lower Mainland. The new collective agreement represents a substantial improvement to working conditions on various fronts. Namely, it includes a considerable wage boost, paid sick days, and employer-paid health and dental benefits.

“I’m happy for everything," said Teresita Garvez, a Bee-Clean janitor who works cleaning the Guinness Tower in Vancouver, in a press release from SEIU Local 2. "We were ready to go all the way and strike, but I’m relieved we got this deal beforehand.” 

Garvez considers the health benefits one of the janitors’ most important successes. She said the benefits especially mean a lot to her coworkers with children.

The health benefits are extensive, covering prescription drugs, health equipment, and paramedical services such as vision care and massage therapy. Dependents and part-time janitors will be eligible to enroll. Janitors have also won additional paid time off and improved vacation pay.

“It’s been quite a while and it was a long fight," said Rosario Agustin, ajanitor cleaning the historical Marine Building in downtown Vancouver. "The strike pushed them [Bee-Clean Building Maintenance] to grant us what we demanded from our final offer. And it’s about time.”

Most janitors in British Columbia are non-unionized and work for minimum wage, with no access to paid sick days and health benefits. Janitors seeking to improve these working conditions are increasingly turning to unionization. SEIU Local 2 is experiencing a surge of new members joining from the janitorial industry.