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Open Letter: In Support of Cleaning and Maintenance Workers at Brentwood Town Centre

Blog posts are the work of individual contributors, reflecting their thoughts, opinions and research.

John Horton, President, Shape Properties

Darren Kwiatkowski, Executive Vice President, Shape Properties

Graeme Johnson, Executive Vice President - Leasing, Shape Properties

In Support of Cleaning and Maintenance Workers at Brentwood Town Centre

I learned from a press release today that Shape Properties plans to lay off 17 cleaning and maintenance staff and replace them with contract workers at the Brentwood Town Centre mall in Burnaby, BC as part of the company’s plan to take over management of the property. One of these people has worked at the mall for 39 years, and throughout the years they have struggled to increase their pay and benefits so that they can support their families and enjoy dignified lives.

It seems that the very dignity afforded by the workers’ combined 159 years of labour at Brentwood is exactly what has made them expendable. For Shape Properties to take away the livelihoods of so many hardworking people, especially to replace them with new contract workers that will inevitably work just as hard for what can only be less money and fewer benefits, is shameful and inexcusable.

Why has this decision been made by Shape? Does the company not see any value in loyalty, commitment, knowledge or experience? That can’t be the case. In fact, in the corporate press release announcing Shape’s acquisition of Brentwood Town Centre on April 1, 2010, executive vice president Darren Kwiatkowski states one of Shape’s goals in purchasing the mall is to “add value and create something we can be proud of.”

I fail to see how laying off decently paid, experienced and long-serviced employees and replacing them with people that will do the exact same work for less is either “adding value” or “something to be proud of.”

So there must be another reason for this decision. What could it be? Do the values and principles of Shape Properties not allow for the company’s officers to respect the basic human dignity of others?

Comments made by executive vice president of leasing Graeme Johnson in an October 19, 2010 Shopping Centre Business Canada magazine article would lead one to think otherwise. When Johnson says that the “most important thing is to have a mall that works with the community,” are we to believe him? Does he really privilege community integration and acceptance on the one hand while dismissing members of that community from a property he manages with the other? And when he claims that at Shape “we always try to ask ourselves, ‘Is there a better way?’” then is it really possible that layoffs are the “best way” and there was no other choice?

If that is the case, then it’s clearly not the “best way” for the workers. It’s arguably not the “best way” for the community, either – I mean, how ironic is it that Shape is laying off decently paid workers, who assumedly purchase products from the stores at Brentwood mall, and planning to replace them with poorly paid contract labourers who will invariably spend less at the mall? That’s an odd way of “adding value,” to say the least.

That leaves the only possible explanation to be the one that always prevails: profit – and always at someone else’s expense. In this case, it’s lowering labour costs to increase profits at the expense of 17 workers and their families. And although Johnson professes his desire to “challenge the status quo,” Shape in this instance is clearly trudging along, doing the same old boring thing that every other company does – drive profit, drive profit, drive profit.

Definitely something to be proud of.

Needless to say, it is clearly in the best interests of the workers, their families, and the community for Shape Properties to do the right thing and actually have the courage to challenge the status quo. Shape would do well to look up from its accounts and beyond its narrow self-interested monetary goals and have some basic respect for the people that have laboured so long to clean and fix Brentwood Town Centre.

These are the people that have made it a decent place for others to come.

Sincerely,

Andre Guimond

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Comments

Thanks for sharing this.   Do

Thanks for sharing this.

Do you have the contact information for the people mentioned at the top?

Shape Properties contact info

Hi Nat,

The contact information for the Shape executives listed above is publicly available on their website at http://www.shapeproperties.com/contact_us.html, but here are their addresses for the sake of ease:

jhorton@shapeproperties.com
johnson@shapeproperties.com
kwiatkowski@shapeproperties.com

Thanks,

Andre

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