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‘First Ever’ Lockout At NZ Public Hospital

25 February 2001

More than one hundred cleaning staff at Wellington, Kenepuru and Paraparaumu hospitals face the first lockout in the history of public health from 1am on Monday.

“This is a tragic first. The first ever lockout in a public hospital,” says Service and Food Workers Union spokesperson, Alastair Duncan.

“Fifty years ago we saw employer arrogance on show on the waterfront. Today the target is low paid hospital cleaners. A company determined to smash their job security is locking hospital cleaning staff out of their jobs. It is a brutal action by a brutal company.”

Alastair Duncan says mediation talks collapsed last week after Spotless refused to consider a union offer that would have seen the cleaners give up their automatic job security in exchange for a comprehensive redundancy package.

“This is not a dispute about wages. It is about an employer apparently determined to punish it’s own workforce for upholding their lawful rights.

“Last year the Employment Court upheld the cleaners’ right to job security. Now Spotless is using the lockout to try and exact revenge.”

Alastair Duncan says all attempts to secure a comprehensive redundancy offer have been rejected.

“What Spotless offered was pathetic. They offered less than half the amounts already agreed to with other workers and insisted on an exclusion clause that effectively rendered any payments void.”

Alastair Duncan says the cleaners are increasingly concerned at the ‘hands off’ approach taken by Capital Coast Health.

“Capital Coast Health has the moral and legal authority to resolve this dispute. On Friday we sought an urgent meeting with the hospital. We are still waiting to hear from them.”

Alastair Duncan says the lockout raises critical issues about the use of private contractors in public hospitals and the union is concerned about the silence from the board.

“Wellington’s hospitals have seen a succession of contractors whose sole aim is taking a private profit out of public health.”

Members of Parliament and other supporters are expected to address the pickets outside Wellington hospital between 10am and noon on Monday. Pickets will run at Kenepuru and Wellington all week.

For further information contact Alastair Duncan on 04 494 9962 (direct) or 021 137 4228 (mobile).

A living wage at Capital Coast Health
The Facts

More than one hundred cleaners at Capital Coast Health (CCH) have been indefinitely lockout as of February 26th. Here are the facts:

1. Until 1991 all cleaners at CCH were protected by a national award (agreement). That award covered contractors as well as staff directly employed by the public hospitals. In 1991 the Employment Contracts Act effectively put an end to national bargaining.

2. While many workers saw pay cuts at CCH the approximately 100 staff were able to protect many of their conditions, such as weekend and penal rates. Successive employers have consistently resented those rates.

3. The cleaners managed to protect those entitlements even after CCH bought in private sector contractors to run its kitchen and catering services (ie: Contracting Out).

4. In the past five years three different contractors have operated the cleaning services at CCH. The cleaners have been the one ‘constant’. During this time they have fought to protect their hours of work and patient safety.

5. The current contractor is Spotless Services NZ Ltd, the NZ arm of a large multinational company. With a reported profit last year of $13 million, Spotless is now the dominant ‘provider’ in the sector having bought out the previous contractor (P&O)

6. Most cleaners are paid just $9.71 an hour. They are seeking a pay rise of just 97 cents an hour and have issued notice of low level industrial action i.e.– bans on some jobs and stopwork meetings.

7. Spotless retaliated by issuing lockout notices to take affect from 26th February. That would mean no income for the staff unless they accept a 2-year agreement comprising of a 2% pay rise in each year and gutting of their employment protection provisions. (The current CPI is 4%).

8. The employment protection provisions are based on the old “industrial democracy” provisions of the public sector and were unsuccessfully challenged by Spotless in the Employment Court last year.

9. Spotless says it cannot offer more unless the client (CCH) is prepared to foot the bill. CCH and Spotless have yet to sign a cleaning contract.

10. CCH says they do not want to involved – but the CEO does say they want Spotless to be a ‘good employer’. CCH is involved. They bought Spotless in.

For a copy of the Spotless Petition in support of workers or to make a donation please telephone 09 375 2680 or email info@sfwu.org.nz
For regular updates on the lockout visit our website sfwu.org.nz


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