HALIFAX – Dozens of people rallied outside a downtown Halifax office building Monday in support of a group of black janitors who were fired from their jobs after they revealed plans to file a human rights complaint based on allegations of racial discrimination.
About 70 people gathered outside Founders Square to support janitorial workers, who were told they would be laid off at the end of this week, but were terminated last Friday after the allegations were made public.
Darius Mirshahi, an organizer with the Service Employees International Union Local 2, said the group will file another complaint alleging that the workers were fired abruptly for complaining about alleged racism.
“This is a very heavy-handed response to people exercising their right,” he said before the Monday rally. “So the union will be helping the workers file another human rights complaint because the act forbids retaliating against any individuals in response to them stating their intention to file a complaint.”
The unionized workers of African descent clean Founders Square and say they are lodging their complaints against the property manager, Armour Group Ltd.
A spokeswoman for Armour Group said the company had terminated its contract with GDI Integrated Facility Services because of poor cleaning services, saying the company would continuing paying the janitors until the end of the month.
“We have a contractual obligation to our tenants to maintain standards of cleanliness in the building and our decision was based on consistent tenant feedback about the quality of their cleaning services,” Tara Wickwire, a senior director with National Public Relations, said in an emailed statement.
The company said it received more than 200 complaints from tenants in 2017 regarding GDI’s services.
Mirshahi dismissed the assertion, saying “this discussion is about which workers that currently clean this building are being continued as employees and which ones aren’t.”
The property manager recently awarded its cleaning contract to Deep Down Cleaning Services, prompting GDI to issue layoff notices to all its cleaners at Founders Square.
Taylor MacLean, one of the janitors who received a pink slip, said last week that it has been a stressful experience.
“I’ve still got to pay rent. I’ve still got to feed myself,” he told reporters.