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Passengers offered hygiene packs as airport strike looms
Passengers flying out of Melbourne Airport, Australia, were urged last week to collect a free hygiene pack as low-paid cleaners fighting for fair wages prepared for industrial action that could result in dirty food courts, filthy toilets and over-flowing garbage bins.
Cleaners are currently voting on potential action and passengers could be confronted by an unhygienic terminal upon their return to Melbourne. The vote comes after contractor Spotless told more than 100 cleaners that they should be paid $1600 less than other cleaners at the airport.
"People flying back home are likely to see a dirty airport, thanks to Spotless's refusal to back fair pay for its cleaners," says Jess Walsh, Victorian Secretary of United Voice, the Cleaners Union. "But we don't want anyone to be caught short or inconvenienced, so we're offering passengers hygiene packs to help them make a clean getaway."
The packs contain essentials such as toilet paper, a rubber glove, anti-bacterial hand wash, a Chux cloth, a wipe and a toilet-seat cover.
Voting ends next week. Industrial action could begin shortly afterwards at Melbourne Airport's domestic terminal, which is used by more than 5,000 passengers each day.
"Cleaners, who work so hard to keeping Melbourne Airport clean for the travelling public, earn just $16.57 an hour," says Jess. "And, as the cost of living soars, they are struggling to pay their bills and support their families."
Cleaners at the domestic terminal are employed by Spotless, which, says the union, is refusing to reinstate an airport allowance worth $1600 a year. The allowance was stripped away during the award-modernisation process last year.
Cleaners rely on the allowance to help cover transport costs, and are forced to pay for petrol and maintain a car because there is no reasonably priced public transport.
"Working at Melbourne Airport can cost a small fortune and until last year all cleaners were paid an allowance for cover these extra costs, and they just want it back," explains Jess.
In July, airport cleaners working in the international terminal for ISS Cleaning won a new union agreement that provides annual pay increases of 4% and also restores the airport allowance.
"Other cleaners working at the airport get that allowance, so Spotless's cleaners are being paid $1600 less for doing the very same work," explains Jess.
"Cleaners have told Spotless that they will not accept worse pay and conditions than other cleaners, and they are united and determined to win fair wages."
Proposed actions include partial stop-work actions to a full indefinite strike, as well as bans on cleaning and related duties like replacing toilet rolls and emptying bins.
1st September 2011