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Canberra Hospital cleaners say their pay freeze shows a lack of respect

Daniella White

Published: November 14 2017 - 12:00AM

Cleaning up body fluids, making an operating theatre safe for use and completing infection cleans is all in a day's work for Canberra Hospital's cleaners.

They are told they are in important part of the health unit, helping keep the public safe. 

But they say their 64 cent pay increase since 2012 - which puts them on a base rate of $21.83 - is plain insulting. 

The 100 cleaners affected are angry at health minister Meegan Fitzharris' response to their protest and have vowed to keep fighting. 

Specialist cleaner in the maternity section Lyn Martins said more responsibilities were added to their role every year, but there was nothing to show for it in their pay packet. 

"They keep saying we're part of this hospital and we're respected but we don't feel valued at all, if they valued us they would put us up with the bottom rate of the public service," she said. 

"We do a hell of a lot of work.

"I'd like to see [the minister] live off our wage for a week."

Specialist cleaner in the aged care unit Helen Piggott said the 64 cent pay increase since 2012, as well as a minor bonus this year, was unjust and hard to live off. 

"We put ourselves at risk doing all this specialised cleaning but I don't feel like we're being treated like valued and respected members of the team on a pay level," she said. 

United Voice organiser Erryn Cresshull said the ACT government needed to fix its contract with ISS - which employ the cleaners - to allow for a payrise. 

She said the Ms Fitzharris showed all of the empathy of Marie Antoinette in her comments on the dispute.

"A tiny bonus made last year and a paltry 64 cent increase at the beginning of this year still amounts to a pay cut when compared with the cost of living," she said. 

 "Ms Fitzharris as a Minister earns around 6 times what her full time hospital cleaners do with regular increase guaranteed delivered by the public purse.

"There's been enough talking now, it's time to take some action."

Ms Fitzharris said she recently heard the cleaners' concerns first-hand and valued their role.

She said ISS Cleaners received two pay increases – one upon the commencement of the new contract and another at the start of the new financial year.  

"I acknowledge that cleaners wish to see further pay increases and respect their right to continue to advocate to their employer ISS," Ms Fitzharris said. 

"I also encourage ACT Health and ISS to talk to each other about this issue."

This story was found at: http://www.canberratimes.com.au/act-news/canberra-hospital-cleaners-say-their-pay-freeze-shows-a-lack-of-respect-20171113-gzk2sf.html