Natalie Guiteaud has been a janitor in Toronto and Ottawa for the past four years and currently works at the Constitution Square in Ottawa. Her husband is a superintendent for a condominium and is as much on the frontlines as she is.
Her experience as a cleaner has always made Natalie feel that they are doing one of the most important jobs for public safety. Natalie explains:
Cleaners are the bottom line for so many jobs which means that if we don’t do our job, they can’t do theirs. Healthcare personnel are working tirelessly to test, diagnose and aid those who have fallen ill. Who picks up their discarded, contaminated gloves at the end of the day? Who wipes and decontaminates all surfaces in rooms and washrooms? Who picks up contaminated tissues, paper towels and face masks in hospitals, schools, hotels, office and government buildings? CLEANERS. We have always been putting ourselves at risk but I sincerely hope now they understand why we are worth more than we get.
Natalie has always felt that being a cleaner makes her more susceptible to getting sick but with the current pandemic she feels the risk is much more significant
This time it is more serious and should not be taken lightly by employers. The chance that I could be exposed going to work, at work, or heading home.
Natalie has been very active as a union steward and Justice for Janitors council member over the past year. She has been vocal in her workplace of the union difference and speaks to the importance of being unionized now more than ever.
Without a union, employer can ignore important things that keep us safe, healthy and correctly paid. As the Union, we remind employers of our rights and have an advocate to fight for us when necessary.
Natalie believe the most rewarding part of her job, is that she knows she is helping others. Like many, Natalie hopes that once the pandemic is over, cleaners will continue to be remembered and celebrated for their essential work in society:
Cleaners are just as important as any other essential workers and we tend to be the hidden heroes that people don’t really think about and we do put ourselves at risk just as much as other occupations do, just in different ways.