End Contracting Out

Stop the Contracting Out of Cleaning Services and Protect Good Jobs at the University of Toronto

Update - August 2021

Beginning September 6, U of T will cut more decent jobs in caretaking and contract out their work to for-profit cleaning companies in three more buildings on the St. George campus: Bahen Centre of Information Technology, University of Toronto Schools, and 703 Spadina Avenue. This is in addition to the contracting out of cleaning at 18 other buildings on the St. George campus in August 2020.

U of T claims that this is because private, for-profit contractors will be performing COVID-related cleaning work in these buildings. CUPE 3261 members working as caretakers will be reassigned to other work, however roughly 18 directly employed positions with decent wages and benefits are being cut indefinitely.

What happened?

On August 17th, 2020 the University of Toronto initiated a new contracting out plan by privatizing a significant portion of caretaking services. The University removed and transferred CUPE 3261 caretakers from 18 buildings at the St. George Campus, replacing them with two private companies to provide cleaning services. These companies employ low-paid workers with little to no benefits.

As a "Top 10" Employer and a premier public institution, most would expect U of T to provide good job opportunities alongside high-quality cleaning services, especially during COVID-19. Instead, U of T has decided they would rather save a few pennies than provide good jobs and high-quality cleaning.

U of T must do better

U of T has said that it has contracted out additional cleaning due to COVID. However, we believe that U of T is using this moment to reduce its labour costs by relying on private cleaning companies. The truth is that private cleaning companies are notorious for paying low wages and running cut-throat operations by cutting corners on safety. Research has shown that privatized delivery of cleaning services impacts quality and can endanger community safety. Workers in this sector are not reliably provided with proper safety training or equipment by contractors looking to turn profits. By contrast, CUPE 3261 members working in Caretaking Services work directly for U of T and have a fair collective agreement as well as a strong union. In addition to having decent work, our members can assert their rights to have the training and the equipment they need to ensure high quality disinfection and keep our U of T community safe.

As an institution that prides itself on excellence and principles of equity, U of T should be protecting good jobs on campus and ensuring the highest possible standards of safety.

The private cleaning industry is exploitative towards workers - and particularly towards racialized workers who are over-represented in lower-paid and precarious jobs. If U of T says it cares about equity, it should not be supporting cleaning companies whose profit model is to pay workers poverty wages.

Join us in urging U of T to do the right thing and bring cleaning work back in-house to protect high standards and good jobs.

Take Action

Please contact the President of U of T Meric Gertler, VP of Operations and Real Estate Partnerships Scott Mabury, and VP of Human Resources and Equity Kelly Hannah-Moffat and ask them to do the right thing and end contracting out of cleaning services at U of T.

“[Toronto] is a city of great contrasts in terms of income – a lot of very prosperous people, but also a growing number of more disadvantaged individuals. The biggest challenge for Toronto is to ensure that it finds a way to engage all members of its population effectively and create opportunities for everyone to succeed economically and socially.” - Meric Gertler, May 2018

We agree. We call on President Gertler to tackle inequality right here at U of T and protect good jobs on campus, instead of allowing for-profit operators to do our cleaning work.

You can also email them individually with your own personalized message:

Email the President at president@utoronto.ca or call his office at (416) 978-4163

Email the VP of Operations and Real Estate Partnerships Scott Mabury at scott.mabury@utoronto.ca or call his office at (416) 978-0231

Email the VP of Human Resources and Equity at either vp.hre@utoronto.ca or call the office at (416) 978-4865

You can also help by signing and sharing our petition below

Comments from the Petition

"As a faculty member at U of T I have over the past few years become increasingly dismayed by my institution's disregard of its ethical responsibilities towards many of its staff, its teaching assistants and graduate students, and racialised minorities. This is yet another example. Shame on you U of T. Instead of learning from the awful human rights results of the same kind of contracting out of services in the UK and taking the moral high ground, you're ending up in the gutter. Keep yourself morally clean; once your morals are dirty, no contractors will be able to clean you up."

-Shami Ghosh, Assistant Professor of Medieval History

"'Best' cleaning services take advantage by providing minimum wage workers that lack skill, training, are under staffed and ill-equipped. To summarize, I found a mop in my working area once and gave it to the 'Best' cleaners who were so delighted since they did not even have mops.

They have zero training related to Health and Safety, come into work sick and are not getting the job done. I work at the Athletic Centre and it has become a dirty working environment compared to the good old days of having our CUPE members clean the facility."

-Steven Villada, U of T Athletic Facility Assistant and CUPE Member

"With all the U of T employees on the Sunshine list, it's hard to believe there's no money to pay caretakers a decent wage. This is the kind of decision that contributes to economic inequality, a huge problem that the pandemic is making worse. This certainly doesn't look like the action of one of the best employers in the country."

-Mary Ann Vernon, USW Member

"As a U of T alumna, this is completely unacceptable. Any additional cleaning workers MUST be paid and benefitted in the same way that current CUPE 3261 employees are.

Using this situation as an attempt to cut costs is not only unreasonable, it is frankly unsafe in the current COVID-19 environment. "

-Arianna Verbree, U of T Alumna

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