Friday, May 24, 2024

Petawawa cleaners out of jobs after firm cancels government contracts

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More than 70 employees at Garrison Petawawa are out of work after their private company gave up the government cleaning contracts there.

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More than 70 employees at Canadian Forces Base Petawawa are without jobs after the company they worked for voluntarily gave up the government cleaning contracts it had at the military installation.

Toure Cleaning Services requested that its two contracts at Canadian Forces Base Petawawa be terminated, National Defence said in an email to this newspaper.

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That means 67 union members and other non-union staff are without jobs, said June Winger, national president of the Union of National Defence Employees. About 75 employees are affected.

The workers, who received slightly more than minimum hourly wage, stopped receiving their pay in mid-January, she added.

“It’s shameful,” Winger said. “They don’t have nest eggs to rely on. They’re living paycheque to paycheque. National Defence should do better.”

The positions had previously been full-time public-service jobs, but that changed when the federal government turned to the private sector to handle such cleaning contracts.

Winger said there had been ongoing issues with workers receiving their pay since Toure was awarded the contract in the summer of 2022. The firm was also having difficulty providing cleaning supplies so staff could clean buildings at the base, she added.

Garrison Petawawa
A file photo of the main gate of Garrison Petawawa, where base cleaning service contracts had been awarded to the private company Tour Cleaning Services in the summer of 2022. SunMedia

Toure Cleaning, which appears to operate from a house in Ajax, Ont., did not respond to requests for comment from this newspaper.

The company’s Google Reviews site is filled with complaints from individuals claiming they were the firm’s employees and stating they have not been paid their salaries.

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Winger said National Defence and Public Services and Procurement Canada had a responsibility to the workers, military staff and the Petawawa community to examine the backgrounds of the firms they provide contracts to.

National Defence confirmed the firm’s cleaning contracts at CFB Petawawa had been terminated.

“Recently, Toure Cleaning Services Ltd. requested termination of their two Janitorial Services contracts at CFB Petawawa. PSPC and the company subsequently terminated the two contracts by mutual consent,” National Defence spokesperson Andrée-Anne Poulin wrote in an email.

No other military bases in Ontario were affected, she added.

“The company that held the third janitorial service contract at CFB Petawawa, Dexterra Group, is now cleaning the buildings that were previously cleaned by Toure Cleaning Services Ltd. until a new contract is awarded,” Poulin wrote.

National Defence did not comment on the employees being without pay or benefits. It did not provide any details on when a new contract might be awarded.

It was unclear why the contracts were awarded to Toure Cleaning in the first place.

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Winger said it was time for National Defence to bring the employees at Petawawa back into the public service. She noted that cleaners at some other military bases were still public servants and there had been no problems with the services they provided.

Winger said union members who had worked for Toure Cleaning were still in the dark on what would happen in the future.

“They’ve been told just to go home,” she said.

David Pugliese is an award-winning journalist covering Canadian Forces and military issues in Canada. To support his work, including exclusive content for subscribers only, sign up here: ottawacitizen.com/subscribe

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