Monday, 15 June 2009

international cleaner's day

turns out today is international cleaners day:

This is a very important day to cleaners because it highlights the fact that the work they do is very critical in keeping buildings clean and hygienic to protect the workers and public from swine flu pandemic and other germs. It’s also a good time to focus on solving the problems cleaners face in New Zealand and around the world.

In New Zealand, lunchtime rallies of hundreds of cleaners together with their families, religious and community leaders in Christchurch, Wellington and Auckland will see cleaners reaching out to cleaning contractors, building owners and tenants for better pay and respect.

"Every night hundreds of largely Pacific Island and new immigrant workers travel to various buildings in the cities where they live to begin their work. While office blocks are emptying out the cleaners are beginning their night’s work. While cleaners may only be paid $12.55 - just five cents above the minimum wage - the work they do is a critical part of every successful business."

"No office, airport or shopping mall, can function long without us cleaners. Yet we are treated as invisible workers with no respect. All that we want is decent work, proper training on health and safety, job security and fair pay. But most of all is Respect," Said Vaine Lavaka, a cleaning delegate from Auckland.

so please take some time out today to at least think about these workers, who deserve much better than they're getting. and for those who are in auckland, wellington and christchurch, it would be great if you could spend part of your lunchtime supporting these activities:

Wellington - the rally begins at 12 noon to 1pm at Te Rauparaha Park, Porirua.
Auckland – the rally begins at 12 noon to 1pm at Downtown (foot of Queen St) followed by a march up Queen Street to Aotea Square.
Christchurch – leafleting begins at 12 noon to 1pm at the CBD.


Simon said...

In Thailand you can hire a Burmese maid for US$100 a month and board. Apparently the Burmese are thankful for the opportunity.

Anna said...

I'm glad you wrote about this, Anjum. Cleaning work is vital, as you point out. I quite often hear the argument that NZ should be off-shoring so-called unskilled jobs and aspiring to more skilled knowledge economy jobs instead. I think this can lead to a kind of punitive attitude to some workers - they 'deserve' to be badly paid because they haven't upskilled themselves. Leaving aside all the other things that are wrong with this argument, you can't send cleaning work off-shore. We need to look after our cleaners, because they do a good job of looking after us!

Anonymous said...

Simon, your point is?

Agree with Anna's comments. And, as the old saying goes, you can tell a lot about a country by the way it treats its most vulnerable citizens. New Zealand doesn't stack up well under this measure.

Hugh said...

I must admit I was ignorant of the fact that such a thing as international cleaners day existed, but I'm really glad to see it does and even more glad to see it promoted here.


In my usual nit-picking way I am a bit saddened that cleaners feel the need to emphasize the critical nature of their work. They do so, of course, at the expense of everybody whose work isn't so critical. I understand that they want to raise their visibility, which is extraordinarily low, but it saddens me that they feel the need to do so by implicitly degrading others. This seems to imply "we've earned our rights through the critical nature of our work; if somebody else's work isn't so critical, then perhaps their case isn't as strong as ours"

stargazer said...

i'd say you were reading a bit more into that phrase than was intended. i think they are more about fighting for recognition of the value of the work they do, which is so often dismissed because it is considered lowly/unskilled.

simon, you may approve of people taking advantage of the poverty of others and exploiting their need to not starve to death, but that doesn't make it right. i'd say the burmese maids deserve a decent wage, sick leave, holidays, respectful treatment. i don't know where you've seen the survey on burmese maids and how you're sure they're thankful. but i'd rather not live in a world where the only choice people have is between exploitation and starvation.

Hugh said...

Possibly Stargazer. But there is something of a tendency on the left to apply a moral value to different types of work - usually productive/non-productive, and I think that tendency needs to be quite strongly policed.