“We are very excited and proud of this success,” exclaims Eden Berhe. “We had always wanted to unionize but were too afraid to take the first step. This time it was different, and we decided we had to go for it, especially as each day we are seeing the costs increase but our wages are not increasing as fast.” Eden has been working at the Royal City Centre with Bee-Clean for the last 5 years.
Local 2 filed a variance application that sees the workers included in an existing Collective Bargaining Agreement with Bee-Clean and gives the new members access to wage increases, family health and dental benefits and other important gains.
“Having health benefits is extremely important for me and my family,” explains Laura Dosman who works the evening shift at the Exchange Tower. “Our job is very physical, and the movements are very repetitive, which makes it important to take care of ourselves so we can prevent injuries. Paying out of pocket is just too difficult and creates a huge financial burden for me. That’s why winning health benefits will have a positive impact on our health and consequently our work.”
The gains won’t stop there. The Collective Agreement is set to expire in the spring of 2023. Over 600 Bee-Clean workers and thousands of unionized janitors from other cleaning contractors across British Columbia will be back at the table to bargain for more workplace improvements in the context of rising costs of living and inflation across the country.
“I chose to sign a union card and encouraged my coworkers to do the same, because I know that together we can make things better. As an individual you don’t have the power to make meaningful change to your working conditions,” said Patrick Accettura, a cleaner at Waterfront Station.
Most of the newly unionized worksites are prime commercial office properties in Vancouver’s downtown core. Additionally, over 150 Bee-Clean workers that keep BC’s TransLink Skytrain clean and safe for passengers have also joined SEIU.
“Working with the public on the Skytrain comes with serious health and safety concerns,” says Leena McVetty. “We do not have enough protections. Unionizing will mean more health and safety for all workers on the job.”
Bee-Clean is one of the largest national cleaning contractors in Canada and a key player in Vancouver’s janitorial market. The Bee Clean janitors join cleaners from other major cleaning contractors already in SEIU, including GDI Integrated Facilities Services, Best Service Pros and Alpine Building Maintenance.