a female janitor mopping the floor of a restroom

A new study that will focus on Canadian real estate managers’ response to COVID-19 risks and essential workers in commercial properties has gained the support of The Service Employees International Union Local 2 in Toronto, Canada.

SEIU will participate in the study conducted by the Canadian Capital Stewardship Network (CCSN) by making written submissions and assisting workers in making depositions, announces the union in a press release.

“Recognizing the critical role that property service workers play in protecting public health, a network of Canadian pension fund trustees and union representatives is analyzing how Canadian real estate managers are ensuring that conditions are in place for essential building workers to meet health and safety standards," says CCSN, according to SEIU.

Despite the great importance of their work, many janitors has suffered financially due to COVID-19.

“Many building owners helped workers by keeping them on, some even got raises,” says Annette Reyes, a cleaner at one of the office towers at the Eaton Centre in downtown Toronto and a member of Local 2. “But the building owner and our employer, GDI, sent us home after we cleaned for the first month despite possible coronavirus cases in the buildings we clean.”

SEIU has made it clear through the Invisible to Essential campaign that the sector’s response to COVID-19 has been inadequate, and while a handful of property owners and janitorial companies have made efforts to increase pay and bring health and safety up to par during this crisis, they are not enough.

“We believe the report will validate what cleaners have been saying all along,” says Tom Galivan, secretary-treasurer of the union. “The property owners have a responsibility to address working conditions of cleaners in their properties. If the issues that cleaners are facing aren’t addressed prior to reopening and inviting thousands of office workers back to their buildings, there’s going to be another crisis.”

Janitors continue to clean essential workplaces and their work will become all the more vital as governments begin to reopen their economies, and large segments of the workforce return to their jobs, says SEIU. These workers clean healthcare facilities, public transportation systems, airports, vital shopping locations, courthouses, morgues, parcel delivery facilities, police stations and office buildings, as well as the schools, colleges, and universities our children attend. Difficult and labor-intensive deep cleaning will continue to be needed and staffing levels need to increase to complete this colossal task.