Fired Cleaners Demand Reinstatement and Respect at Rally in Toronto

Amphora Terminated Workers Because They Wanted a Union, According to Complaint

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - April 2, 2012) - Two dozen people rallied earlier today outside 8 King St. East in Toronto. They called on the building's new cleaning contractor, Amphora Maintenance Services, to reinstate terminated employees and respect their wishes to have a voice at work.

"With the previous cleaning company we won a small raise, better vacation pay and we were going to get benefits this summer," a statement by Cleria Ezequiel reads. "Now not only have we lost all these things, we've lost our jobs."

Earlier this month nine cleaners, including one who had been at the location for 10 years, were terminated without notice when they showed up for work. The workers say an Amphora Maintenance Services told them there were no positions available for them.

"We reject this race to the bottom where employers like Amphora are allowed to treat workers like this," said Preethy Sivakumar at the rally. Sivakumar is the coordinator of the Good Jobs for All coalition.

An Unfair Labour Practice (ULP) complaint was filed with the Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB) in early March. The complaint alleges Amphora terminated the employees after the company learned about their desire to remain unionized. The workers filed an application for certification at the OLRB on Monday March 5th, only to be fired later that evening. A meeting is scheduled to take place at the OLRB on Wednesday between Amphora and the Service Employees International Union Local 2, the workers' representatives. To date, Amphora has not filed a response contesting the allegations with the OLRB.

There is nothing unusual about a change in a cleaning contractor; in fact one of the cleaners, Halina Urbanowicz, had been at the site for ten years, employed by the previous three contractors. Cleaning contractors often retain employees because they are familiar with the location. When companies don't plan on retaining staff, the normal practice is to notify employees ahead of time.

According to the legal complaint filed with the Ontario Labour Relations Board on Tuesday March 6, the workers were told by a supervisor that Amphora planned on retaining employees - but there was a catch. "The supervisor told us that Amphora had said that in order for us to keep our jobs, we couldn't stay in the union - they didn't want the union in the building," said Urbanowicz.

"I have a 6-year old daughter and I want to teach her that you have to stand-up for your rights when you've been wronged," said Ezequiel's statement.

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