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We Want Living Wage Too: Cleaners at Parliament Speak Out

We want the Living Wage too: cleaners at Parliament speak out

Cleaners at Parliament are slaving away for just $15.75, before tax. Cleaners like Eseta Ailaoa whose work day starts at 12pm. She cleans for 40 hours a week. It’s hard work - lifting heavy bins and replacing bin liners and scrubbing toilets.

Earning just $32,760 a year, Ailaoa earns 14 times less than the top salary in Parliament, which is $459,739, for the Prime Minister.

Ailaoa, and other cleaners that work at Parliament, are calling on the Government to raise their wage to the Living Wage. This would mean more than $9,000 extra a year, or $178 dollars a week before tax.

Mareta Sinototi is a cleaner employed by Government, who works at the National Library. Sinototi says she used to work two jobs as a cleaner in order to make ends meet. “I never saw my kids because when I left I came home, they were asleep. I worked hard because I felt sorry for my children and my family and we needed to pay the rent. It was a very stressful time.”

She now works one full time job, but still earns the minimum wage ending up with around $600 a week before rent and power expenses are taken into account. She says she has been lobbying for a Living Wage for Government-employed cleaners since 2012, and she wants to see action. “It’s great what has happened at the Wellington City Council! But we want to see the Government do the same - for all the cleaners employed by the government.”

Cleaners like Sinototi and Ailaoa hope the Government will follow the example of the Wellington City Council, which, as of July, pays cleaners at Wellington City Council the Living Wage.

The Equality Network, a non-partisan organisation of 37 members united by the vision of the a vision of a more equal Aotearoa New Zealand last week launched their election statement which asked Income for all that provides the necessities of life through a Living Wage and fairer income support. Annie Newman, National Convenor of the Living Wage Movement Aotearoa NZ, a member of the Equality Network, is calling on the Government to support the Living Wage - and that it should be setting the example.

“One simple step would be to take responsibility as the single biggest employer and procurer of services in New Zealand, and get their own house in order, by making sure that they pay a Living Wage to all those who are directly employed, and to those who deliver services to the government on a regular and ongoing basis. That’s entirely doable and would create a transformation in the lives of hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders. The government should model ethical and fair practice for the whole of society and New Zealand, as well as for businesses that are both private and public.”

Newman says that New Zealand is experiencing a rise in the number of the ‘working poor’. “We have people that work 40 to 70 hours a week and still can't make enough money to feed their families or warm their houses in winter. That's not a just or civilised society. And it’s not just the worker that suffers, it’s the whole household; it’s the children that suffer.

“The living wage is about establishing the amount of money people need to survive and participate in society. People shouldn't have to juggle necessities - the essentials of life. They should be able to feed their children, to educate their children, and to build a better future for their families. Right now they can't.”


$32,760 is a full time salary on a minimum wage, $630 a week before tax

$42,016 is a full time salary on a Living Wage, $808 a week before tax, more than $9,000 extra a year, extra $178 dollars a week before tax.

Prime Minister earns a full time annual salary of $459,739, $8,841 a week before tax, more than 14 times what cleaners at Parliament currently earn.


The Equality Network (EN) is a non-partisan organisation of 37 members united by the vision of the a vision of a more equal Aotearoa New Zealand. Drawing on the growing body of evidence that shows more equal societies do better for their people, the Network was established in 2014. The EN seeks to improve the wellbeing of all citizens of Aotearoa by reducing income inequalities that currently exist.

Last week it released an election statement outlining three key ideas for a fairer country, ideas that should be enacted immediately.

1) Income for all that provides the necessities of life through a Living Wage and fairer income support.

2) A Government-funded house-building programme to help address the housing crisis and provide everyone with healthy, affordable homes with long-term tenure.

3) A tax on very high levels of wealth and higher top tax rates on the highest incomes to ensure that everyone contributes their fair share and enables our families and whānau to thrive.

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