Brentwood Town Centre Workers and Supporters Call on Shape Properties to Preserve Good Jobs for Burnaby

Elected Leaders Chouhan and Calendino and Federal Candidate Stewart Join Workers at Rally

BURNABY, BRITISH COLUMBIA--(Marketwire - March 28, 2011) - More than fifty mall workers accompanied by their families, community supporters and elected leaders gathered outside Brentwood Town Centre mall on Saturday to rally for good for Burnaby.

"Our livelihoods, our homes, and the well‐being of our families are at stake," said Rufino Lumayag, a maintenance worker at the mall since 1992. "We are standing up for our jobs and are not going to leave quietly."

All 17 Brentwood Town Centre cleaning and maintenance staff are facing layoffs this week because Shape Properties, who own a 50% share of the mall, are taking over the mall management and plan on contracting out the work, without making any commitments to the existing employees.

"We want Shape to make a commitment that we will still have our jobs when the contractor comes in," said Jessie Hon Wen, who has cleaned the mall since 2007. "We want to know we'll be able to maintain our wages and benefits and our collective agreement. Our families depend on us."

Two local elected leaders attended the rally to show their support for the workers' plight. "We need to continue to create good jobs for working families in Burnaby just like in other parts of our province," said Raj Chouhan, MLA for Burnaby‐Edmonds. "Businesses benefit and communities are strengthened when workers have good jobs and are treated with dignity and respect."

Kennedy Stewart, who is running for election in the Burnaby‐Douglas riding, where Brentwood Town Centre is located, also stopped by to show his support for the workers. He spoke at the rally, calling on Shape Properties to protect good jobs in the community.

"Hard‐working folks, like Tony Vaz who has worked at the Brentwood Town Centre for almost 39 years and is less than four years away from retirement, should not be treated this way," said Burnaby City Councillor Pietro Calendino.

"What am I going to do?" said Vaz, who has been left scrambling. He says he has seen about seven management and cleaning companies come and go, but says he has never experienced anything like this in Canada. Vaz has some serious health concerns and heavily relies on his benefits – something he may not be able to depend on next week.

The workers at Brentwood Town Centre may not be alone. Raymond Milne, a worker from Lougheed Town Centre, a property also managed by Shape, said the same thing is happening to workers at the mall where he has been employed since 1995.

Through their Union, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 2, the workers have launched a campaign to preserve decent jobs for working families in Burnaby. Coined "Good Jobs for Burnaby" the campaign website raises awareness and encourages concerned members of the community to contact Shape Properties president John Horton, and ask him to meet the workers reasonable demands.

"No worker deserves to be thrown out on the street after years of hard work," said Chouhan. "One can understand the employers' need to grow its business, however, this should not be done at the cost of the workers and their families."

At his age and with his health issues, Vaz believes a new contractor will only see him as a liability and won't hire him. "I think people in our community and mall patrons will be upset when they hear how Brentwood workers are being treated," he says. "The situation reminds him of Portugal in the 1950s. "It seems workers' rights are going backwards instead of forwards."

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

Contact Information: SEIU Local 2
Diego Mendez
800-663-6841 Ext. 215