Voices: Merry Maids Owner Leslie Johnson

By: Laura Steiner

Last month Merry Maids sent an email to customers in Milton.  They announced that in response to the minimum wage increase, they would be moving to a single cleaner.

Leslie Johnson owns the Hamilton-Halton franchise for Merry Maids.  They last raised their rates in 2013 and lost 28 customers. Johnson’s daughter Ashley owns the Kitchener-Waterloo-Guelph franchise, and has tried raising rates to get enough money to pay their staff $14.00/hr.  They’ve lost five customers.  Johnson says her daughter is going to pull back, and other ways to make ends meet.

Leslie sees the move to a single cleaner as a way to avoid raising rates. “The reality is when it takes a team of two an hour to clean a single house, it’s not going to take a single cleaner two hours,” Leslie Johnson said in a recent interview.  She estimates that 54 cents out of every dollar goes to the staff.  The difference goes to hydro, rent, office staff, telephone, cable.  A single cleaner might take 1 hr: 45 minutes to clean leaving the company a 15 minute window.

Johnson admits that her business would see an increase in costs as they buy more equipment.  “But the girls can go out, and we can pay them the money.”   Ashley Johnson has implemented sick days.  Her success has prompted Leslie to introduce them here in Halton.  “The girls who used to call in sick all the time, actually stopped calling in sick, and saved their sick days for when they were really sick,” she explained.  There is a set amount for paid sick days.

The new legislation requires employers to give up to 10 sick days without a doctor’s note.   Johnson disagrees with that. “When I worked for the government and I called in sick, I had to provide a reason.”

The proposed legislation doesn’t differentiate between full-time and part-time workers.  It will give everyone with over five years experience three weeks holidays.  “Should they (part-time workers) get the same rights as a full-time employee?”

The current minimum wage is $11.60/ hr.  In January that will increase to  $14/hr.  The full implementation will be in January, 2019.  “My suggestion would be to stretch out the increase to 2020 at least, to give businesses time to catch up.” Johnson said.

The legislation known as: “Fair Workplaces and better Jobs Act,” (or bill 148) has passed its second reading in Ontario Legislature.