E tū takes major cleaning companies to Employment Relations Authority

E tū, the union for cleaners in Aotearoa New Zealand, has filed an application for fixing with the Employment Relations Authority, after the companies party to the Commercial Cleaners Multi-Employer Collective Agreement (MECA) have refused to budge, offering their workers no improvements to pay and conditions.

An application for fixing means the union is asking the Employment Relations Authority to determine the terms and conditions of the MECA, as a result of the employer parties breaching good faith provisions, leading to a breakdown in negotiations.

E tū initiated for bargaining in February last year. Since then, the employers party to the MECA have offered no pay increase above the minimum wage and no improvement to terms and conditions such as health and safety protections. They have used both the Fair Pay Agreements process and potential future increases to the minimum wage as excuses not to negotiate constructively with the union and employees.

E tū delegate and cleaner, Mele Peaua, says: “Most of the cleaners are on the minimum wage. We all know how much of a struggle that is for workers.

“I was part of the bargaining team, and we were not happy that the companies didn’t want to bargain for a better deal for cleaners. All we want is to improve wages and get better conditions, beyond the minimum.”

E tū National Secretary Rachel Mackintosh says the companies have been particularly difficult in this bargaining round.

“It’s unprecedented, and frankly quite unbelievable, that the companies are still taking this hardline position of a zero-offer beyond minimum wage,” Rachel says.

“These companies hold some of the biggest cleaning contracts in the country, in both the public and private sectors. The cleaners often work long and unsociable hours, doing the essential job of keeping workplaces and public spaces clean and healthy.

“It wasn’t long ago that cleaners were being celebrated by all of Aotearoa as part of the essential workforce that kept us going during Covid-19 disruptions. The companies need to show they respect and value their employees, instead they are demonstrating the complete opposite.”