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Len Brown and the Chambermaids

Len Brown and the Chambermaids

by Don Franks

It has been a diverting bit of light entertainment, but I really could not give a toss what happens to Len Brown.

The indignant – ooh, he’s embarrassing our our city - chorus is funnier than Len’s original gaffe.

It’s only the sleek smug syphoners of surplus-value who really care about Auckland’s image.

That lot, their minders and spinners, plus a few working people temporarily conned into thinking they have a stake in the city because they live there.

It is the anonymous Aucklanders who really matter, not the likes of Len.

If lame Len and his whole fractious council were kidnapped tomorrow and never returned, the real city of Auckland would not miss a beat.

Mail would be delivered, bread would be baked, walls would be painted and beds would be made.

At this time, it is the bed makers that I am reminded of.

The good councillors of Auckland are cross because their mayor got free hotel nights and free upgrades from nice rooms to even nicer rooms. If the mayor had declared these perks, it would, for most of his colleagues, then have been ok. The room cleaning, bed making and laundering required is work invisible to most city councillors and also to many other citizens.

To me, for a few months, hotel bed making was a temporary headache.

During my brief period as a Unite union organiser, I tried hard to improve the conditions of several female hotel workers. On my first visit to one huge building some of them worked in I was, in the few minutes allowed for my visit, appealed to by some of the workers to help them. The number of rooms they had to clean and bed make was too many in the time allotted. Their backs were sore they said, and their worn faces told me that far more plainly than their words of broken English.

With the help of a very keen delegate I tried to get a united meeting together. We tried several times, but could never get enough workers on board at once to make an impact. Towards the end, the exasperated delegate began to blame her fellow workers for being apathetic. I don’t think they were, they just did not have quite enough faith in the visiting stranger to throw in their whole lot with me.

At one stage I nearly cracked it, blackmailing the boss with the threat of a letter to the local paper revealing condoms left in beds because the workers had not enough time to make them properly. The boss sweated for a while, but managed to deflect our missile just in time.

In the end I had to give up on that hotel, realising that my skills were not strong enough to secure a united front from the staff.

It bothered me a lot to know that the unhappy women in the hotel wearily struggled to make too many beds for too little money.

For all I know, they are still trapped in that same situation today.

That is why, when all is said and done, I don’t give a stuff about what happens to Len Brown. Whatever the final outcome, his situation will never be as hard as that of the women who cleaned and made up the beds in which he enjoyed himself.

ends

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