Cleaning staff at London hospital targeted, fired for ‘time theft’: Union

Cleaners at a London hospital, overwhelmed with work during the pandemic, are being fired for “time theft” by the company contracted to do the work.

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Cleaners at two London hospitals, overwhelmed with work during the pandemic, are being fired for “time theft” by the company contracted to do the work, the union that represents the workers says.

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Staff at Sodexo, the cleaning company hired by London Health Sciences Centre, must use a badge to swipe in and out of hospital areas they are designated to clean, but if they are away from the designated area too long, they are fired, said Maria McFadden, service representative for the Labourers International Union of North America, representing 460 employees.

During the last two months alone, more than 10 workers have been fired and the union has fought successfully to reinstate several workers, and is filing regular grievances to fight other dismissals.

“They feel very stressed, very tired. These folks want to do a good job, but a lot of them are working 12-hour days. The appreciation is not there,” McFadden said.

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Some workers are away from their designated area because they have to find supplies and are given little time to clean large areas, said one worker who declined to be identified.

“Morale is terrible. They have brought in a manager everyone is calling ‘the hangman,’ ” the worker said.

“We don’t have enough supplies, brooms and mops, or rags to sanitize. We go get products and then we’re accused of time theft, of being out of our area.”

Sodexo could not be reached for comment. Messages were left in its London and Burlington offices.

London Health Sciences Centre said it could not comment on “third-party labour relations issues” and said the issue is not affecting the hospital.

But the cleaners have heard complaints from LHSC medical staff of areas not being properly cleaned, said the worker.

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“It is bizarre. It is frustrating. They don’t give us what we need to do our job. Staff have broken down, crying on the job,” said the worker.

COVID-19 also has changed the work, as they now must wipe down and disinfect more surfaces, “but we are not given extra time to do it,” said the worker.

The employer is reviewing time sheets and firing workers when they cannot explain a discrepancy on the time sheet from several weeks earlier, said McFadden.

“(Workers) do not keep track of minutes,” from a month earlier, she said.

“They clean in a certain area, go on break. They have to use a badge to swipe in and out all the time. It is traceable. Human beings are not perfect. They might be five minutes late, and they go back and check accumulation of minutes after a month.”

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The workers clean corridors, rooms, bathrooms, do “all-around cleaning,” and a lot more disinfecting since the pandemic, McFadden said.

Of the 460 workers at LHSC’s Victoria and University Hospital campuses, 60 per cent are full-time but most workers are working full-time hours, as well as overtime.

Many of the workers are new Canadians, McFadden said.

“That is an issue as well. They are afraid to stand up and speak out and English is their second language,” she said. “This employer is challenging.”

Sodexo was founded in 1966 in France. It has 420,000 employees in 64 countries. It is considered a facility management company, providing support services to clients such as cleaning, as well as food services to hospitals, seniors’ homes, colleges and universities.

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