“This contract a big win for all of us,” says Agnes Estimo, a day worker at the mall. “Now we are sure we have the protections and benefits secured in our union contract.”
Estimo, who has worked in the mall since 2008 is also an active member in the fight for 10 paid sick days campaign in BC that SEIU Local 2 participated in over the fall and sits on the SEIU Board of Directors as a Member at Large.
The janitors, now employed with Best Service Pros, voted to ratify the same union contract as SEIU members cleaning two other Ivanhoe Cambridge properties in the Lower Mainland that also experienced a contract change on November 1 – Guildford Mall and Tsawwassen Mills Shopping Centre. Alpine Building Maintenance was the previous contractor at those two unionized shopping centres.
“This is a great blessing for us especially the benefits, I’m very thankful my co-workers came together and now we are able to get what we deserve. I’ve been working here for 5 years and so has my husband but we never had health benefits. Now at least we don’t have to worry about medical expenses so much. I’m very happy,” said Germelina Viray.
Metrotown janitors began organizing over the spring and summer months while they still worked for the cleaning contractor Dexterra Group. In July, a strong majority of workers voted yes to join SEIU Local 2 despite Management attempts to intervene by spreading false rumors and making threats throughout the organizing process.
“I have worked at this mall for 23 years and was at minimum wage before we decided to unionize. Right now, not only will I see wage increases each year of this agreement, but I will also be entitled to better vacation pay and entitlements for all my years of service,” exclaims Yolanda Duenas.
Following the success of their union drive in July, the workers began collective bargaining as part of the Dexterra Bargaining Committee. In the midst of the bargaining process, Ivanhoe Cambridge changed the cleaning contract at all its malls. However, thanks to unionizing before then, the workers were able to protect their jobs and seniority and now have ratified a union contract that meets city-wide standards.
“We know there is still a lot of work to be done and are committed to make our union stronger. We hope to build on this contract so we can achieve more improvements when we go back to bargain in 2023,” explains Elizabeth Cabrero, another day shift cleaner at Metrotown.
Cabrero was also part of the Bargaining Committee and has actively participated in the 10 paid sick days campaign in BC.
Metropolis at Metrotown is BC’s largest shopping mall and the third largest mall in Canada. The property is owned and managed by Ivanhoe Cambridge, a real estate subsidiary of the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec (CDPQ) and owns close to $65 billion in real estate assets.