Thousands Of Toronto Cleaners May Go On Strike & The City Could Get Smelly

If you thought Toronto was dirty before, think again.

Toronto street with a view of the CN Tower. Right: Cleaning cart.

Toronto street with a view of the CN Tower. Right: Cleaning cart.

Toronto isn't well known for its dirtiness, but regardless of your stance on its current condition, the 6ix could get a whole lot worse.

Thousands of cleaners in Toronto are preparing to strike over low wages as the cost of living rises, and a strike vote will take place this Saturday, April 30, according to a press release.

Members of Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 2 say they have been trying to get a "fair contract," but that their employers are "refusing to provide wage increases that keep up with the cost of living."

The top pay rate for janitors is $16.45 per hour, with most earning $15.70 per hour, according to SEIU Local 2. Some workers may also earn 50 cents more per hour for "overnight shifts or lead hand premiums."

"Most of my co-workers are working two jobs to be able to pay the bills now," says Erna Bearneza, who has worked for GDI Integrated Facility Services for 10 years.

SEIU Local 2 says that despite cleaners going "from invisible to being called essential" during the pandemic, most did not receive any pay increases related to the pandemic.

"Not only did we not get any pandemic pay," says Mark Dayao, a worker for Best Service Pros at Humber College, "our workloads also increased as deeper cleaning was required."

SEIU Local 2 represents more than 4,000 cleaners in the GTA, over 2,500 of whom are employed by companies currently negotiating at a "central table" with the union, which sets the standard for the industry.

If workers vote to strike, a whole host of spaces in Toronto could be left without cleaners.

Brooke Houghton
Brooke Houghton is a Creator for Narcity Media focused on celebrity news and is based in Toronto, Ontario.