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The union that represents Halifax Regional Municipality’s outside workers says revelations this week that a private contractor was allegedly paying temporary foreign workers illegal wages should be ringing the alarm bells at city hall.

A group of 29 foreign workers who came to Halifax from the Philippines were granted special permission to stay in Canada this week after their employer was arrested under suspicion of mistreating employees. The contractor, Jani-King, had subcontracted the work to Mantolino Property Services, which has been charged.

The contract is for cleaning 13 HRM buildings, including City Hall.

CUPE Local 108 President Mike Young says, “This is yet another example of the lack of accountability that exists when HRM hands over the delivery of services to a third party.

The cleaning of these buildings should never have been contracted out in the first place. This clearly shows that when cost-savings are your sole criteria, bad things can happen,” says Young.

CUPE National Representative Lorne Trevors, meanwhile, argues there is no reason why the work can’t be done in-house.

Says Trevors, “While we are encouraged by actions from Mayor Savage to ensure the rights and jobs of the contracted workers be protected, HRM council needs to understand that there are serious implications when they decide to contract out or privatize public services.

I know we speak for all HRM residents when we say the exploitation of these temporary foreign workers by this private contractor amounts to a violation of basic human rights. This is unacceptable treatment of workers,” he says.

The union says it’s willing to sit down with HRM and come up with a way to bring those cleaning services back in house.