Adaego's
Story

The public tries to avoid touching potentially contaminating surfaces. We janitors are asked to do the opposite. To clean them to help keep everyone safe!

Janitor, Ottawa

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The public tries to avoid touching potentially contaminating surfaces, says Adaego Akor. We janitors are asked to do the opposite.  To clean them to help keep everyone safe!

Adaego cleans at Tunney’s Pasture in Ottawa — the buildings that house Health Canada. “I would say it is a pretty essential place in the country right now, wouldn’t you?” she asks.

Adaego and her co-workers have been working on the front lines. “That is why we are essential,” she explains. “We are working and making sure that everything is being disinfected. You cannot fight covid-19 without cleaning the environment.”

While Adaego is proud of the work they are doing, she says cleaners like her need to get paid more, despite important gains made through her union. “We are currently making $15.25, I have paid sick days and benefits and will have a pension plan starting April 1, 2022,” she says. “But it’s hard to make ends meet with this salary. It makes for the constant struggle to meet monthly bills.”

Adaego says a little more pay would help her live a little more comfortably and keep workers’ families well fed. In her case, she also supports family back in Nigeria, she explains.

Proper protective equipment is also very important explains Adaego.

You cannot go to a warfront without your equipment to fight the war. We have to be able to come back the next day to keep working – we need to protect ourselves to stay alive.

While some property owners and some government programs have helped some workers with wage improvement, she wonders why cleaners are being left behind. “Why are we not considered for those pay increases?” she wonders.  “We have to let them know that we are present, and we are here working hard and let’s make noise!”

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