2 November 2020

CORRECTED: Hospital cleaners picket over "insulting" 5-cent wage offer at Calvary Bruce

| David Murtagh
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Striking workers

Hospital cleaners protested against a 5 cent pay rise today. Photo: United Workers Union.

Yesterday it was Canberra rubbish collectors who announced they would strike on Monday (2 November), today hospital cleaners at Calvary Bruce picketed the hospital over a 5-cent wage increase.

The cleaners are currently on a base rate of $22.02 an hour, which their union, the United Workers Union, says is significantly lower than their counterparts at Canberra Hospital.

After months of negotiating with their contract manager, Compass Medirest, the union was offered a pay rise of 5-cents an hour, which the union has rejected.

In response, hospital cleaners planned to walk off the job on Monday, but Compass Medirest made an application to the Fair Work Commission yesterday to prevent them from stopping work.

Today, union members picketed the hospital.

“These hospital cleaners are all migrant workers, many of them on work visas,” says Lyndal Ryan, United Workers Union Director for Property Services. “Their decision to take industrial action is a brave and considered step.

“Throughout the pandemic, cleaners have been publicly lauded as heroes,” she said.

“This is how the Calvary Hospital’s specialist cleaners are being repaid for their services and dedication. With management who won’t even meet with them and an employer who profits from their labour, but goes to extraordinary efforts to keep them poor,” she said.

Cebele Webbe, who has been a cleaner at the hospital for two years and nine months, said: “We cleaners are living out the crisis of the pandemic too. When they are talking about profits, we are talking about surviving, paying our fees, rent and putting food on our tables. We are not asking for favours. We are asking to be paid a fair amount for the amazing work we deliver.”

Negotiations are continuing between the parties.

Waste collection in the ACT

Waste collection will be affected on Monday (2 November) due to a driver strike. Photo: TCCS Twitter.

Industrial action has been confirmed for Monday by the union representing around 42 striking truck drivers, but the union is unable to say whether industrial action that will halt garbage pickups in 23 ACT suburbs next week will escalate if an agreement is not reached.

The 24-hour stoppage is being undertaken after five months of negotiations with collection contractor Suez failed to reach an agreement.

The Transport Workers Union (TWU) is pushing for profits from the ACT Government contract to flow back through to the drivers, pushing for a 4 per cent yearly wage increase and paid rest breaks.

Suez is currently offering a 2 per cent increase, a TWU spokesperson told Region Media. Drivers are paid a base rate between $32 to $36 an hour under the current agreement.*

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The strike has divided opinions on social media, with some commentators supporting the drivers’ push for higher pay while others branded the workers as some of the highest-paid garbage truck drivers in Australia.

Four days’ notice is required before further strike action can be taken, so further strikes are not expected next week.

The strike will disrupt household waste and recycling collections on Monday (2 November) and missed collections will not be caught up.

Rubbish collection will be affected in:

  • Chapman – waste
  • Chifley – waste and recycling
  • Coombs – waste
  • Curtin – waste
  • Denman Prospect – waste
  • Duffy – waste
  • Farrer – waste and recycling
  • Fisher – waste
  • Greenway – waste and recycling
  • Holder – waste
  • Kambah – waste and recycling
  • Lyons – waste and recycling
  • Mawson – waste and recycling
  • Oxley – waste and recycling
  • Pearce – waste and recycling
  • Rivett – waste
  • Stirling – waste
  • Torrens – waste and recycling
  • Uriarra Village – waste
  • Waramanga – waste
  • Weston – waste
  • Wright – waste
  • Yarralumla – waste.

Green waste bin services, bulky waste collections and the wheeled bin assistance service will continue as normal.

Houses affected by the strike will be able to dispose of up to three large garbage bags for free at the following sites between 9:00 am and 6:00 pm from Saturday, 31 October to Sunday, 8 November:

  • Waramanga – Walpiri Place, off Namatjira Drive
  • Kambah – 66 Springbett Street, near the tennis courts
  • Gowrie – 7 Finlay Place, near the Scout hall
  • Weston – Hilder Street, at the Weston Neighbourhood Oval.

Alternatively, three large plastic garbage bags can be disposed of for free at Resource Management Centres at Mugga Lane in Symonston and Flemington Road in Mitchell between 7:30 am and 5:00 pm on the same dates.

Canberrans will need to show proof of residency when dropping off waste at these Resource Management Centres.

Recyclable materials can continue to be dropped off for free at the ACT Government’s 24/7 recycling drop off centres at:

  • Jolly Street, Belconnen
  • O’Brien Place, Gungahlin
  • Baillieu Circuit, Mitchell
  • Botany Street, Phillip
  • Scollay Street, Tuggeranong.

Transport and City Services has been contacted to clarify bin sizes and measures in place for people without viable transport options.

*CORRECTION: SUEZ has informed Region Media that the company has offered a 2 per cent wage increase in the first year, followed by a 3 per cent increase in both the second and third years.

Under the current arrangement, the minimum hourly wage for ACT truck drivers is $37.28 an hour, not the $32 to $36.

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HiddenDragon6:14 pm 30 Oct 20

An offer of a 5 cents per hour increase – rather than “times are tough, so no increase this time” – sounds like a studied insult, designed to provoke a response. There may be more to this story.

As for the drivers, the claim for a 4% yearly increase based on “profits from the ACT Government contract” suggests that the annual contract fee (funded, of course, by ACT ratepayers, most of whose incomes are growing at nothing like 4% – if at all) is increasing at a greater rate than it needs to in an era of very low inflation.

Get rid of them and hire new ones. Plenty of people looking for work these days.

At first I read it as 5 per cent, which is a big payrise in these times, and probably only justifiable if their base was underpaid. In general these are not the times for big pay increases but rather to be thankful to be in a job. That said, 5 CENTS/HR is insulting especially in light of the increased risk during Covid and no doubt more cleaning work required, what management worth their salt genuinely offers 5 CENTS/HR to their staff? They need to be put through HR/industrial relations training, bet they didn’t give themselves a 5c/hr payrise.

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