Decent Work in cleaning

We need Decent Work in cleaning. 

We have always known that cleaners are vital to a healthy, safe, and functioning society – the COVID-19 crisis just proved it. 

While cleaners were rightly celebrated around the country during the pandemic response, their experiences of work have varied. When businesses closed, some were unable to work, with their pay reduced to 80%. Some were on the frontline, leaving their own bubble to help stop the spread of COVID-19. All of this while on low pay rates that in no way reflect the value of the job.

The crisis also exposed existing problems in the industry’s operating model.

Many cleaners are employed by a cleaning company, rather than directly by the business or organisation in which they work. Instead, businesses and organisations act as the client, contracting a cleaning company to provide their services. Contracts are competitive, with both parties wanting to get a good deal.

When neither client nor cleaning company want to take responsibility to ensure the cleaners are also getting a good deal, it’s the cleaners who miss out. They are the ones who face low wages and insecure work under this competitive contracting model.

As New Zealanders re-enter our workplaces, schools, malls, and other public spaces, we want to know that our spaces are clean, sanitised, and safe. 

It will be a cleaner making this happen.

We cannot go back to accepting that low wages and insecure work are good enough for these vital workers.

Let’s transform the industry to one with Living Wages, fair conditions and cleaners’ voices at the heart of it. 

Here’s how we can achieve Decent Work for cleaners

Enough time to do the job

We need enough hours to do the job safely and to a high standard. Quality cleaning takes time and we need cleaning companies to understand and account for this.

Protection from risks, working with high health and safety standards

Cleaning can mean exposure to viruses, chemicals, waste, and other hazards. That’s why we must maintain high health and safety standards and have the right equipment and procedures to support this. Having more cleaners on the ground as Health and Safety representatives will help us to work with each other and our employers on solutions to keep us safe and well.

The right to obtain qualifications

Doing quality work which is safe and up to standard, requires specific skills and knowledge. Getting training and qualifications is a great way to gain this knowledge. The opportunity to undertake training also means that we will have more opportunities for career progression and further education.

The Living Wage for all cleaners

We should be paid at least the Living Wage. A Living Wage is enough to ensure we can live with dignity, lead a decent life, and provide for ourselves and our families.  We need to be paid all of our pay, every payday. Our companies must have reliable payroll systems. We should not lose out on any money due to the COVID -19 crisis.

Secure work

Secure work is Decent Work. If we can stay on the job, we can build our experience – and this supports quality cleaning. This means that even if the client changes their cleaning company, we still have the right to that job with guaranteed hours and no loss in conditions.

Involvement in decision making

We’re on the ground, so we know what works and have the best ideas for improving the industry, creating decent jobs and making sure workplaces are safe. We should have a say at our workplace and in the wider industry.

It’s all only possible if we unite. Our campaigns for the Living Wage and Fair Pay Agreements, and a decent social procurement system, would deliver this vision.

We can achieve Decent Work if the Government:

  • starts by transforming their own spaces. Contract workers, like cleaners, are the lowest paid people in the core public sector. If the Government is serious about reducing poverty and showing leadership, it needs to be paying them the Living Wage by the end of this term of Government
  • passes Fair Pay Legislation. Fair Pay Agreements are well overdue in New Zealand. Some of the biggest contracting companies have said they would like to pay better wages but can’t afford to, as they’ll be undercut by exploitative employers. Fair Pay Agreements can be a solution to that.

We can achieve Decent Work if industry and business:

  • publicly supports a Fair Pay Agreement for the sector
  • supports and implements the principles, 6 Rebuild Better Principles for Cleaners, which will ultimately benefit both cleaners and the companies for whom they work.

We can achieve Decent Work if local councils:

  • support the cleaners in their workforce by ensuring the Living Wage is the minimum rate paid Councillors can vote to support this in their annual budgets. This is the right thing to do, is good for the local economy, and shows leadership in our community.

If you’re a cleaner and want to help achieve Decent Work but you’re not in the union yet, click here to join E tū today.

You can unite with cleaners around the country by clicking here to join our Facebook group.