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Cleaners stand up against poverty

13 October 2006

Cleaners to join thousands worldwide to stand up against poverty

On October 17th, International Anti Poverty Day, cleaners, low paid workers and their supporters will rally in Auckland, Wellington to stand up against poverty in New Zealand.

"Cleaners are joining the worldwide campaign against poverty, but we need to take t
his stand against poverty in New Zealand first." said SFWU Cleaners union delegate Sue Lafaele

"There is poverty in New Zealand. We see it in our communities. Our families experience it. "

"It's time for the cleaning industry and the government to lift cleaners out of poverty in New Zealand. That's why we are campaigning for a clean start in the cleaning industry," said Sue.

Cleaners usually have to work at night, when most of us are asleep. Most are paid around $10.95 per hour, just 70 cents above the minimum wage. Cleaners often work in 2-3 hour shifts, many having to do several jobs per day just to make ends meet. Work rates are unrealistic and cleaners often don't have time to complete their work - many work extra unpaid hours just to get the job done.

Cleaners challenge government to take responsibility On International Anti Poverty Day the New Zealand government will announce to cleaners whether or not they will take responsibility for improving the poor conditions and wages for cleaners working in Government owned and tenanted buildings.

"The New Zealand Government has said it supports cleaners' calls for improvements to their industry, and has welcomed moves by the Property Council and building owners across Australia and New Zealand to adopt the Clean Start Principles to improve the cleaning industry" said SFWU Cleaners Union National Secretary John Ryall

"But the Government has not made a commitment to lifting cleaners out of poverty in buildings where the Government themselves make the decisions about cleaning work, " said Mr Ryall

Cleaners and their supporters challenged the Government to face up to their responsibilities on Anti Poverty Day and make a commitment to tackle the issue of poverty in their own back yard.

"Why should low paid workers continue to bear the burden of a low wage society?"

A wide range of community organisations supported cleaners' calls for an end to poverty wages in New Zealand.

Many churches including the Catholic Church have called on governments in New Zealand and Australia to ensure that the work cleaners do provides them with a fair wage and allows them to live in dignity.

The Australian Catholic Social Justice Council's latest newsletter reported that cleaners frequently had take home pay packets below the poverty line. The newsletter also noted that family life was hit hard by the work hours of cleaners, and concluded that the situation for low paid workers is a disgrace.

Pacific Island Presbyterian Church Minister, Reverend Mua Strickson Pua agreed with this stance, asking:

"Why should low paid workers continue to bear the burden of a low wage society?"

"Governments must respond to poverty by increasing the minimum wage immediately. How long must our low paid workers wait to be treated with dignity?" said the Reverend.

Affordable housing a joke for cleaners
The recently released Massey University Home Affordability survey showed that house prices had significantly outstripped wage growth in New Zealand.

At only 70 cents above the minimum wage, cleaners' pay meant that owning a home would be nearly impossible.

"On $10.95 per hour, cleaners struggle to pay rent and are often forced to live in overcrowded rental situations. The dream of owning a home will never become a reality for these hard working people." said Cleaners Union National Secretary John Ryall

Disgraceful poverty for Pacific Island workers and their families
Pacific Island cleaners and their families felt trapped in the cycle of poverty and did not have the same opportunities as other New Zealanders.

"We have to work at night, our kids hardly see us. We can't afford the things that other people have. We don't have holidays," said SFWU cleaners union delegate Sue Lafaele.

"Our families are struggling to make ends meet. We have poor health and poor education outcomes because of poverty in our communities," said Sue.

"We have to budget really carefully - anything unexpected like the car breaking down or a doctors bill - causes chaos in our lives," said Sue.

Poverty causing social problems
Poverty wages are leading to social problems in New Zealand. Youth gangs are becoming a problem because parents don't have time to spend with their children and because families are under resourced.

"Poverty is causing violence in our communities, but we get the blame. The Government and the rest of the cleaning industry need to solve these problems before it's too late" said Sue

Cleaners campaign makes progress but cleaning firms stalling
Cleaners involved in the Clean Start: Fair Deal for Cleaners campaign reported that the cleaning industry as a whole was taking steps to lift cleaners out of poverty.

They noted, however, that some of the largest cleaning contract firms in New Zealand were not interested in raising standards in their industry.

Cleaners intended to name those firms who had not made a commitment to raising cleaners out of poverty on International Anti Poverty Day.

Cleaners called on the public to support Anti Poverty Day rallies on Tuesday October 17th and their Anti Poverty Forum on Thursday October 19th and to take a stand against poverty in New Zealand.

Cleaners Anti-Poverty Day actions are supported by:
NZ Council of Trade Unions; National Council of Women New Zealand, Fale Lalaga Pacific Island Women's Health; Jeanette Fitzsimons and Russel Norman - Green Party of New Zealand; Child Poverty Action Group Aotearoa New Zealand; Pukapuka Community Trust; Waiata Trust; Bruce Hucker, Deputy Mayor of Auckland; Reverend Mua Strickson Pua - Presbyterian Church; Radical Youth; AIL: Marilyn Kohlhase; Global Peace and Justice Auckland, Auckland Women's Centre, Tuvalu Christian Church West Auckland, The Salvation Army Policy Unit.

Tuesday October 17th - International Anti Poverty Day Details:

* Auckland City. Rally and March. Meet at Britomart, downtown at 5pm
* Wellington. Rally and March. Meet at Parliament at 12noon

Anti Poverty Forum
Nga Tapuwae Community Centre, 253 Buckland Rd, Mangere, Auckland

In Auckland, cleaners have been meeting with community leaders to talk about how we can fight poverty together. Cleaners from the Clean Start: Fair Deal for Cleaners campaign are hosting an Anti Poverty forum with speakers from anti-poverty organisations. All welcome.

Panel of speakers includes:

* John Minto - Global Peace and Justice Auckland, speaking about Loan Sharks * Mike O'Brien - Child Poverty Action Group, speaking about child poverty * Malia Tuai - AuckPac - speaking about Pacific Island Health and Wellbeing * Jill Ovens - Regional Secretary, SFWU, speaking about Affordable Housing * Farida Sultana - Shakti Asian Women's Centre * Reverend Mua Strickson Pua - Pacific Island Presbyterian Church * Sue Lafaele - Cleaner - speaking about the Clean Start campaign


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