Cleaners across Aotearoa New Zealand are getting a huge opportunity for real improvements to their pay and conditions, with the Chief Executive of MBIE approving the initiation of a Fair Pay Agreement for cleaners.
The news couldn’t have come any sooner. E tū and large cleaning companies involved in a multi-employer collective agreement for commercial cleaners are in negotiations today with much at stake for these low paid workers.
Historic underpayment of cleaners has meant cleaning companies compete for contracts, which drives down pay and conditions – the exact problem the Fair Pay Agreements Act 2022 was passed to address.
E tū member and cleaner, Mele Peaua, who is part of the union’s commercial cleaners negotiating team, says years of inadequate results from bargaining are a clear demonstration of the need for a good Fair Pay Agreement to cover cleaners.
“A Fair Pay Agreement will be ground-breaking for low wage cleaners like us. It will give collective bargaining power to many cleaners who currently have no access to it,” Mele says.
“Normal collective bargaining just isn’t working for cleaners. We have a wonderful opportunity right now to win a good Fair Pay Agreement and reduce inequality and poverty in our communities.”
E tū Transformational Campaigns Director Sarah Thompson agrees.
“The contracting model creates a ‘race to the bottom’ where labour costs are the significant factor in competitive tendering,” Sarah says.
“Having our multi-employer collective agreement has meant negotiating some marginal improvements for cleaners over the years, but it doesn’t stop non-union employers from undercutting companies who might otherwise be open to paying reasonable wages.
“It’s a particular problem in the cleaning industry, and also in security, where E tū has also been approved to negotiate a Fair Pay Agreement.”
Sarah says that all workers should see the value of Fair Pay Agreements and vote for political parties who support them.
“There is currently a huge political focus on the cost of living. Just as we are finally starting to fix these systemic issues through Fair Pay Agreements, the Opposition has promised to tear them up. That’s just appalling, and we need to make sure as a country that we don’t let that happen.”