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Cleaners stand up and speak out for workers rights

Press release: Service & Food Workers Union, Nga Ringa Tota
For immediate release

Cleaners stand up and speak out for workers rights

Cleaners and their supporters held lively rallies in cities across Australia and New Zealand today as part of their global “Clean Start: Fair Deal for Cleaners” Campaign.

The campaign calls on building owners to take responsibility for the cleaning work done in their buildings. So far, the majority of multi-national building owners have agreed to support the ‘Clean Start principles’ which are about showing respect to cleaners for the work they do.

Auckland cleaners rallied outside the APN/NZ Herald building as APN/NZ Herald has refused requests to meet with cleaners to discuss their concerns.
Cleaners handed out sponge cloths to those going into the building with a message to take to APN:

“Cleaners in NZ don’t have enough time to do their work – here’s a cloth so you can help them out in your building. APN/NZ Herald has refused to meet with cleaners to discuss their concerns about workload, pay and conditions in this building. Cleaners deserve dignity and respect – and to be listened to! Come on APN/NZ Herald – meet the cleaners!”

Cleaners also collected signatures from workers in the building and from the public who were all very supportive of the cleaners and shocked to hear about the low pay rates and poor conditions for those who clean their building.

Cleaners called on APN/NZ Herald to change their minds about meeting with them, but said they would be happy to return to the building for more actions like todays until the company agreed to meet.

Haku Kalopeau, a cleaner working on 6 different worksites in Auckland City and who has to be in town for 17 hours a day, spoke to the crowd about what life is like for a cleaner.

"I don't have any time for my family. It isn't really a life. It's just work work work. I go from one building to the next, sometimes with 2 hours in between jobs. It’s not fair, I just want decent hours and enough time to do the work properly."

Teresa Tuiluluu, a cleaner and Service & Food Workers Union delegate, spoke about the effects of Australia’s new Work Choices legislation on cleaners that SFWU members are campaigning alongside. She said that cleaners and all workers in NZ should reject Wayne Mapp's "90 day Bill" - which recently passed it's first reading in parliament. Like the Workchoices legislation, it was anti-worker and meant that new workers had no rights in their first three months of employment.

"How will vulnerable workers such as cleaners stand up to the boss when they’re treated badly? How will they stand up for their rights if they can get sacked in their first 3 months on the job?" she asked.

In Wellington, Clean Start campaigner Marie Fatu, a cleaner for more than 6 years, addressed a crowd of more than a thousand workers who had gathered to protest the 90 day bill.

”It’s a race to the bottom for cleaners but a race to the top for bosses - they are recording huge profits, but they still want to attack us. People should come first, not profits!”

Cleaners in New Zealand and Australia say they will continue their campaign for workers rights and for a Clean Start in the cleaning industry.


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