by Denise Roche
This morning there will have been a few tired MPs pulling themselves out of bed. Seven Green MP’s – Metiria, Gareth, Jan, Catherine, Julie Anne, Eugenie and I were joined by some Labour MPs and Brendan Horan last night to Clean up the House. This event was organised to raise awareness of the hard work and poor pay rates on offer to our parliamentary cleaners.
First up we had to attend a health and safety briefing which brought home to many of us that our cleaners are busy working with some pretty toxic chemicals. Catherine Delahunty as our toxic spokesperson seemed to be paying particular attention. And on my part, as the waste spokesperson I learnt a lot about what gets recycled and what doesn’t.
Campbell Live were on hand to cover this event and bring to the wider public the work that the parliamentary cleaners do.
After our health and safety briefing the Labour MPs headed off to Parliament House while we went under the travelator back to Bowen House because for security reasons we could only work in our own offices.
According to the Service and Food Workers Union – who helped organise Clean up the House and who represent these workers – about 80% of cleaners across the industry are women. We had a slightly better percentage than this with Gareth and Steffan giving up some valuable sleeping time to support the cleaners.
The first thing that struck me is how hot it was with the air conditioning being switched to early morning mode. The other thing that immediately stood out was how tough this work is. We were all a little ropey compared to the professional and dedicated staff that we were working alongside. It’s hard physically demanding work and our parliamentary cleaning staff are really quick and efficient, cleaning up to 19 office floors in 6 hours.
The parliamentary cleaners work hard for us and parliament needs to take a lead on ensuring workers are paid a fair days pay for a fair days work. With Labour Day coming up it’s timely that we recognise the worth of our hard working staff and ensure they have a living wage.