Contracting out reduces service quality and threatens health and safety
Research has proven beyond a doubt that when cleaning services are outsourced to private companies, the quality of cleaning services goes down.
According to the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, contracted out cleaning leads to higher turnover rates, more health and safety risks, and a decrease in the quality of cleaning services.
In terms of turnover: "The commercial cleaning industry is a very high turnover industry. Although there is a massive demand for efficient, dependable commercial cleaning services, traditional and conventional cleaning companies experience the largest turnover. Companies are losing up to 80% of their cleaning contracts annually due to the lack of quality service, reliability, professionalism and a cleaning company’s ability to stay in business (CCPA, 2012, p. 19).
High turnover rates in the private sector mean cleaners are less experienced, face increased workloads and increases the cost and time dedicated to training. This is because private cleaning is "characterized by sub-standard supervision, a poor work environment, and poverty-level compensation."
Poor working environments and job insecurity also lead to reduced health and safety for employees due to poor safety standards, leading to a greater risk of injury or work-related illness (p. 22).
Privatized work also leads to reduced skills and competency in the workplace due to higher levels of disengagement from workers. Workers who are employed directly by the institutions they work for, and when represented by a strong union, are more likely to invest themselves in their work and organization (CCPA, 2005, p. 44).
Common attributes of contracted out include high workloads, unpredictable job routines, lack of support from supervisors and managers, disengagement from the workplace, alongside low wages and few benefits (p. 44).
Private companies are not interested in providing high-quality services. Unlike in-house workers, they are not accountable to workers, students, and the community. They are only accountable to their shareholders and are solely focused on providing low labour and supply costs. On the other hand, in-house work focuses on providing good training and well-supported staff.
By privatizing cleaning services, U of T threatens the health and safety of our community members by putting cleaning services in the hands of a company that is solely interested in making money. Private companies provide worse training, less equipment, and have less familiarity with campus than in-house union workers.
the impact on working conditions and inequality
By contracting out work, U of T believes that it's okay to pay workers poverty-level wages with meagre benefits.
These workers are often unsupported, lack adequate training, overworked, and poorly compensated. Low-wage service workers are disproportionately people of colour, women and recent immigrants, most of who have very few opportunities and have no choice but to take jobs that provide substandard working conditions (CCPA, 2005, p. 42).
"Rather than finding a more hopeful life in Canada, these women and men find themselves trapped. Privatization has pushed them below the poverty line, robbing them of energy, time for family and community, and a sense of well-being." (p. 42.).
Contracted out cleaners make close to minimum wage, and unlike union workers, they lack decent benefits, steady hours, reliable equipment and adequate job security.
Working poverty is already on the rise in Toronto, and creating low-wage work will only exacerbate it and increase the rate of inequality (CCPA, 2012, p. 10).
By providing living wages through in-house unionized work, workers can have more stable lives, better health outcomes, and build stronger social cohesiveness. "When cleaners can earn a stable living wage, the broader economic and fiscal benefits extend even beyond their formal careers, thanks to the greater stability and health they are statistically likely to experience in retirement." (p. 27)
By transferring cleaning work from public to private companies, families and individuals that already face economic and social marginalization will feel an even stronger burden.
Having a living wage means workers having access to a stable income that ensures their full participation in economic and social life. By driving incomes down below living wages, and paying cleaners poverty-level wages, U of T serves to undermine the ability for workers to "function in healthy and sustainable ways, with lasting effects on future generations" (p. 26).
The University is not struggling - they can afford to support the workers they employ and pay living wages. U of T raised over $2.6 billion in its "Boundless" campaign, which concluded in 2018. As a result, the University has large capital plans including constructing new impressive buildings, improving research and providing more student support. But service workers are simply not part of the equation. U of T must realize that our working conditions are also students' learning conditions.
Jane S, Nancy P, and Marcy C. (2005). The Pains of Privatization: How Contracting Out Hurts Health Support Workers, Their Families, and Health Care. Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives BC Office. [link]
Boundless Final Campaign Report. University of Toronto. [link]
Which buildings are contracted out?
The University of Toronto has contracted out 18 buildings within "3 zones" on the St. George Campus. This does not include buildings already contracted out such as the Department of Law, Department of Music, Goldring Centre, Dentistry, Myhal Centre, and many others.
Zone 1 includes: 150 St. George Street (Max Gluskin House), 321 Bloor St. West (Rotman Commerce), 121 St. George Street (Centre for Industrial Relations), 158 St. George Street (School of Continuing Studies), and 105 St. George Street (Rotman School of Management).
Zone 2 includes: 140 St. George Street (Claude T. Bissell Building), 130 St. George Street (Robarts Library) 120 St. George Street (Thomas Fisher Rare Books Library), 21 Sussex Avenue (Sussex Court), 2 Sussex Avenue (Innis College) 655 Spadina Avenue (Fasken Martineau Building), 123 St. George Street (Transitional Year Program), 665-669 Spadina Avenue, 40 Sussex Avenue (Faculty of Kinesiology & Physical Education), and 4 Glen Morris Street (Studio Theatre).
Zone 3 includes: 252 Bloor Street West (Ontario Institute for Studies in Education), 246 Bloor Street West (Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work), and 119 St. George Street (Woodsworth College).
Who have they contracted out to?
The cleaning services will be provided by two private companies: Best Service Pros and Ion Facilities Services.