Slim Gedeon works at the Ottawa City Hall as a janitor. Since the outbreak, most city of Ottawa employees have been asked to work from home. This gives him some sort of relief to know that he won’t have to come in contact with too many people at work. However, he knows he is putting his life and his family’s life at risk every time he leaves his home:
“All of our three young children are at home and my wife is a personal support worker in a senior’s home so we are both taking a big risk so that we can continue feeding our children and paying our bills. Right now a family member is sometimes helping us to look after our children but if this situation goes on for too long, then I will have to quit my job and stay home with my children.”
Before coming to Canada in 2013, Slim was an IT technician in Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince. He joined the cleaning industry as his diploma was not recognized and he has not been able to obtain his diploma equivalence as he needs to pay his bills and provide for his family. I have come to accept that I will stay in cleaning for the time being but at least now society understands how important and essential we are as a result of this crisis. We are the ones disinfecting to keep our city safe. I am constantly disinfecting elevator buttons, doorknobs and working hard to ensure the virus does not spread. People say that we are important but do they really treat us that way? We should be getting higher pay. My job is as important as all other essential jobs.
As soon as Slim leaves his house, he is in danger. “We have to take our own precautions and protect ourselves because our employer won’t necessarily look out for us.” Although he is currently being provided with gloves and hand sanitizer, he thinks all cleaners should be wearing masks and knows that many cleaners are not even being given gloves and hand sanitizer.
Thanks to his city-wide collective agreement, Slim has access to a few paid sick days in case he does have to stay home with his children but he feels that the government should be doing more to protect working families:The government is not doing enough for us. This is why we need to sign our petition and put pressure on the government so that they do not forget about us even though our work may be invisible to many.