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Source: Etu Union

A group of essential workers at a South Auckland primary school are now struggling with their future after learning that they face redundancy from a job they’ve given their all to.

Around two weeks ago, the four contracted cleaners at Finlayson Park School, who have been working there for about six years and throughout the COVID-19 crisis, found out their employer’s cleaning contract had not been renewed and had been given to a franchisor instead.

But rather than rehire the existing cleaners, the franchisor has proposed to contract the work to a family-run franchisee.

The cleaners have pleaded with the school’s management to meet with them to hear their concerns.

They want the school to directly employ them at the Living Wage rate to do the job – a cost the Ministry of Education agreed to cover for all directly employed E tū members working as school caretakers, cleaners, and canteen staff back in 2019 – or for the franchisee to employ them to carry on the work.

“The school’s principal and the chairperson of the board of trustees didn’t want to talk to us or even listen to how we feel,” says one cleaner, Siatua Alani.

“We feel really hurt – betrayed, disrespected, and not valued. At least they could acknowledge the good work we have done for the school. It feels like they just don’t care – it feels like we are nothing to them.”

All the cleaners live locally, and many have also had children who have been through the school.

“We always used to go the extra mile as our kids went to school here, and in the past year we’ve been doing our bit to keep the school community safe as essential workers. Then we get treated this way,” says another cleaner, Lika Toleafoa.

“All we want to do is continue cleaning for the school.”

E tū organiser Fala Haulangi says it’s a huge deal for the school cleaners to lose their jobs.

“Although they have been paid for the past week, there has been no work for these cleaners since the Friday before last.

“E tū has basically been told by the incoming franchisor via their consultation document, there will be no work for them in the future as this is carried out by franchisees,” Fala says.

“Living and working locally was a way for these essential, loyal yet low-paid workers to continue to survive financially, as well as having a strong sense of community and working for the greater good.

“The school’s management have control over who they choose to clean the school, and they’ve chosen to go with this franchisor, even though they knew that it would mean their old cleaners would likely lose their jobs.”

Fala says management needs to reconsider its decision, or request that their new contracted franchisee rehire the existing cleaners.

“There is absolutely no reason the school cannot employ the cleaners directly to do the job and at the Living Wage too – an expense that would be funded by the Ministry of Education. We are calling on the school to step up and do the right thing.”

“This situation highlights perfectly why Fair Pay Agreements are crucial to make sure all workers, including contractors, have minimum employment standards and conditions, and to stop employers’ ‘race to the bottom’.

The cleaners’ redundancy consultation ended on Friday 25 June.

ENDS

For more information and comment:
Fala Haulangi, 027 204 6332

MIL OSI