ALL IN AN UNDERPAID DAY’S WORK
In Ontario, there are at least 45 occupations that can be legally denied a host of basic rights, leaving thousands of the most precarious workers exposed. Maria Farooqi, a single mother and building superintendent, is one of them, Sara Mojtehedzadeh reports
Maria Farooqi, 46, is the woman taking out your condo’s garbage, mopping its floors and scooping up drunks from the lobby. But she’s not even entitled to minimum wage.
Maria’s work day starts with the rising sun. At 6 a.m., she begins by checking the water pressure in her 110-unit condo building at Jane and Finch. As a live-in building superintendent, she is not entitled to rest periods, overtime pay or limits on working hours — all because of Ontario’s outdated labour laws. She regularly works more than 12 hours a day, six days a week, and she is on-call 24-7 for emergencies. She makes $30,000 a year.
At 7 p.m., Maria finishes her last task: wiping the ground floor’s light fixtures clean of dead insects. Even when she retires to her apartment, she can rarely put her day behind her. Once, she was woken up at 1 a.m. when a drunken resident tried to host a barbecue in the lobby. Often, she must get up in the middle of the night to help police review security footage. Maria says her lack of workplace rights are a slap in the face. “I feel like they’re saying, ’You’re not human.’ ”
Maria has worked as a super for 18 years. Past employers understood the stress of the job, and were lenient when she needed a break. This building is different: Last week, she worked 88 hours. Her erratic schedule makes it difficult to have a real social life. “Lately, I only had one girlfriend, Esther,” she says. “Sometimes she takes me out for coffee.”